food-for-thoughtby Roger Childs

…  the prospect of a referendum would ease the minds of MPs who are uncertain.   It would be their chance to share power with the people, thereby devolving some of their own responsibility for getting it right from their own shoulders onto ours.  —Waikanae resident and End of Life Choice advocate, Ann David

Priceless friendship

cat and dogA couple of years ago I met some friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. After the usual greetings, I inquired about the dog Jasper and they told me the sad story of having to put the animal down.

The three of them had been inseparable for years and were a frequent sight along the Waikanae River banks. However, they have moved on and the new dog Topaz is a great source of joy and companionship, just as Jasper was.

The loss of a pet is hard to take, but the time comes to make the tough decision. When the animal is getting little pleasure from life, you don’t want it to suffer any more. At least pet owners, can decide to end the existence of a cat, dog or horse, when quality of life, dignity and self-respect has gone.    

Not long ago, we had to make that choice for our cat of 15 years. After providing loyal and faithful service, and friendship for so long, it was sore, listless and losing control of its body.

It was a traumatic time for the three of us, but we felt that Fluffy understood.  The process was carried out with care and consideration, and there was little discomfort for the animal.

Dying with dignity or not

Many years ago a close friend went back to The Netherlands to spend time with her brother during his last few days. He had an incurable disease, had minimal quality of life and was not going to improve. Because the Dutch had passed enlightened legislation allowing euthanasia, the brother was able to choose to die with dignity.

Over 30 years ago, I watched my mother die, very slowly. In the days before scans and hospices, she had a brain tumour which was incurable and was admitted to hospital for her last few months. 

She spent over 60 days as a “human vegetable”, was incontinent, and not able to recognise anyone or talk. This was a lady who in earlier times had been a loving, energetic and vibrant women, and here she was, having to wait for death until her heart stopped beating.  She was not going to improve, her dignity and self respect was gone and we all wanted her to be out of her discomfort and anguish.

Amy AdamsIt was interesting that in the speeches relating to the second reading of the End of Life Choice Bill mid week, a number of MPs referred to the undignified death of a parent. Amy Adams (pictured) referred to the gruesome, painful and dehumanising death of her mother.

Readers will also remember the tragic case of the courageous Lecretia Seales some years ago. She failed in her attempt to be able to legally shorten her life and die with dignity.

Legislative action needed

Legislative action is long overdue and it is sad to see some in medical profession, as well as Christian and family groups holding out against what would a very humane and enlightened law. 

When we make the choice of euthanasia for our pets, we are thinking of them, especially when they are losing control of their bodies; are sore and uncomfortable, and not going to get better. Thousands of humans are in a similar condition and wish to die with dignity.

Opponents have raised concerns about 

  • possible coercion
  • getting rid of “inconvenient” family members
  • disabled and maginalised people being vulnerable
  • certain ethnic and religious communities being opposed 
  • pressure going on sick people who have relapses.

However the bill sets out very clear safeguards and processes, and no-one would have euthanasia imposed on them.

The time has come to make the choice possible for New Zealanders when they have lost their dignity and self-respect, have no quality of life and want to pass on.

The New Zealand First party is keen to see this incredibly important issue decided by the people in a binding referendum. Instead of the burden being imposed on the consciences of MPs, “direct democracy” seems the best way to go.