Academic describes End of Life Act as white, middle class idea that ignores family values of Pasifika and Maori cultures

The Euthanasia bill, which will come into effect next November, does not take into account Pasifika or Maori views, according to a New Zealand academic.

Protesters against the Euthanasia Bill gather outside Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

AUT lecturer Dr Rhona Winnington, who is a registered nurse, said there was nothing in the End of Life Act which supported Pasifika or Maori culture, the idea of whānau and the community aspect of living.

She described the legislation as a very Eurocentric, white, middle class concept.

She told the ABC’s Pacific Beat that taking care of the elderly was deeply ingrained in Pasifika and Maori culture.

White Europeans did not take care of their elderly in the same way, she said.

The Act has been widely opposed by  politicians, churches and by public figures such as former Prime Minister Sir Bill English who told a Parliamentary enquiry  that in comparison with overseas legislation the Act was weak in protecting patients from abuse.

Direct challenge

Before the vote on the referendum, which was held alongside the national elections on October 17, Dr Collin Tukuitonga, the inaugural Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, said the Act was a direct challenge to Pasifika people’s basic beliefs about life and death.

“Pacific people in particular will be dismayed and disappointed by this seemingly callous and casual approach to the end of human life,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

“The majority of the Pacific people are Christians and believe human life is sacred, a gift from God to be respected and protected at all costs. This is called the sanctity of life.

“The Bible teaches that human beings are created in the image of God, that murder is forbidden and only God can make decisions about life and death.”

Tongan nurse Atela Asi  told RNZ last month the bill went against all her training.

“I don’t believe in having their life taken. Especially, from my point of view, we were never taught to kill people, we were taught to save people so it’s not up to anyone to take anyone’s life.”

Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, who attends the Papakura Tongan  Methodist church, said not all Pacific people or Tongans opposed the Act, but said that the choice to end life prematurely was only the  beginning of a process that involved the dignity of other people.

Speaking in Parliament last November, Tongan-born Labour MP Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki said: “I believe and support the concept of death with dignity and comfort, with the context of effective pain relief and loving care for those who are desperately ill and facing death.”

“I believe the core of the bill—the purpose—is to sanction in the law of the land the premature ending of a human life.”


As we reported in August, the End of Life Choice Act 2019 is intended to give people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

To be eligible for assisted dying, a person must 18 years or over,  a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand,   suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within six months, be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability,     experience unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable, be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.

Assisted death means that the person will take, or a doctor or nurse will administer, administer medication that will kill them.

Kaniva says:

Let us know what you think of the End of Life Act and what you think it will mean for your community.


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