Brian Edwards Media

The Doctor and the Right to Die

Photo: Paul Escourt

Tuesday’s  Close Up programme featured a compelling and moving interview with John Pollock MB, ChB, MRCP[UK], FRNZCGP. Sixty-one-year-old Dr Pollock is a general practitioner. He is in the business of saving lives. But Dr Pollock, who has never smoked, is suffering from terminal lung cancer and wants the right to seek help to end his own life before his suffering becomes unbearable to him and, more importantly, to his family. To offer him that help would, under current New Zealand law, be a crime.

Yesterday the New Zealand Herald reprinted a letter which Dr Pollock had written earlier to the magazine New Zealand Doctor. In it he presents his arguments for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia in this country. It is well worth reading.

I support Dr Pollock in his bid to have assisted voluntary euthanasia made legal for terminally ill patients in New Zealand. My argument follows.   

This is an area where precise definitions are essential. The critical word in the euthanasia debate is voluntary.  I am talking about a situation where a person wants to die and seeks the assistance of others to commit suicide. I am not talking about killing someone who does not want to die, or is unsure, or is incapable of making a decision or expressing a wish. Those are separate and quite different issues. I am talking about a situation where a person wants to die and seeks the assistance of others to commit suicide. Voluntary euthanasia.

The next thing that has to be said is that this is not and must not be considered to be a religious issue. It is a legal issue, an issue for the state. Those whose religious beliefs preclude the idea of taking one’s own life are entitled to hold to those beliefs, but they are not entitled to impose them on others. Religious belief is personal, subjective and arbitrary. It cannot and should not be the basis of lawmaking. Voluntary euthanasia is a legal issue, an issue for the state.

Does the state have the right to tell a person whose life has become an intolerable burden to them that they cannot end it and cannot seek the assistance of others to end it? I would have thought not. I would have thought that was an intolerable intrusion on  the rights of responsible adults to determine their own destiny. 

At the heart of my personal philosophy is the simple belief that everything should be permitted that does not harm someone else. Where there is no victim there should be no crime.

If you apply this philosophy to euthanasia, killing someone who did not want to die, or was unsure, or incapable of making a decision or expressing a wish, would clearly constitute harm – involuntary rather than voluntary euthanasia.

And harm would include failing to ensure that that person was fixed in their resolve to die or that no reasonable alternative existed to helping them take their life.

So we need to have safeguards to ensure that no life is unnecessarily or prematurely ended.

It’s here that the opponents of voluntary euthanasia introduce the concept of the ‘slippery slope’ – legalise voluntary euthanasia today and we’ll be bumping off the old, the infirm and the handicapped tomorrow. And if we aren’t actually bumping them off, we’ll be putting pressure on them to do the job themselves.

It seems to me that this is an argument based on the premise that, as a society, we are incapable of self-regulation or control, that restraint must inevitably lead to excess. It’s an argument based on the idea that we cannot draw lines.

Yet all of our lawmaking is based on the drawing of lines, on the placing of limits. All of our laws say: this far and no further. The ‘slippery slope’ argument is, quite simply, a denial of the possibility of the rule of law. With voluntary euthanasia, as with anything else, we are capable of drawing lines, of setting limits, of imposing sanctions. If we are not, then we are less than human, less than civilised.

What to me is less than human, less than civilised, is the overweening arrogance that allows one human being to say to another: despite your pain, despite the fact that your life has become intolerable to you, despite your cry for help, despite your plea for mercy, I deny you the right to die, because your death would be an affront to my beliefs, my values, my conscience, my religion. That, to me, is as good an example of doing harm, as you might hope to find.

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48 Comments:

  1. I think the “slippery slope” argument has been well proved actually. Look at abortion, initially brought in for medical reasons to save women’s lives and now turned into effective abortion on demand. The legislation has not changed, but the situation certainly has moved so far from the original intent to the point where Steve Chadwick wants to bring in new laws to reflect the reality.

    • I think the “slippery slope” argument has been well proved actually.

      We’re not talking about abortion, we’re talking about voluntary euthanasia. Whether what has happened in the abortion area is desirable or not desirable is a matter of personal viewpoint. Your argument would be stronger if you could advance evidence of abuse of assisted voluntary euthanasia laws in societies similar to our own. While you are considering the possibility of that slippery slope, thousands of New Zealanders face the agony of having to live on, often in terrible physical and mental agony, when their dearest wish is to be allowed to die. What we have to do is devise legislation so watertight that the ‘slippery slope’ ceases to exist.

  2. With you 100% on this one, Brian.

  3. Who is to say a slow and painful death is a futile exercise, a pointlessly prolonged termination of an ultimately pointless existence? Death – in all its forms – has lessons for all of those left behind.

    Recently, an old family friend of my mother passed away. He was in his eighties. He had been bed ridden with cancer and in pain for a couple of years, waiting to die yet never doing so. Then, deep in the night, his wife of six decades felt his hand gripping hers and woke up. He was trying to say something. He whispered urgently to her several times “time to go, time to go” and, once he knew she understood, he died. So it is, and so it should always be. People know when their time comes. And that is how we should leave it.

    To offer a deeply unfashionable view, suffering is as much part of the circle of life as happiness. Without the pain of birth we would not come to our take our place in this beautiful world we live in. Without pain and suffering, how can you ever hope to truly understand the precious miracle of life? Pain and death are the constant shadows of pleasure and living, and we are separated from them by but the thinnest of threads. You should go when it is your time. Not an iota earlier. For men to presume to meddle in these areas is to simply create arbitrary minimum tests of what constitutes useful life. Some of us must suffer to die, but that is better than the alternative – a scale by which when you fall below you are encouraged to die as an encumbrance to us all. So much for the sanctity, so much for the miracle, of life. And don’t say to me, society has no right to demand you should suffer. Soldiers suffer and die for their societies. The poor suffer and die because society makes it so. All around us, people suffer because we say they should.

    Some of us may be lucky and die at a great age after life of good health in our beds, surrounded by large and grieving families. Others will suffer and die long or lonely deaths, sometimes long forgotten by a world that has long passed them by. For sure, fate has something in mind for each and every one of us. But no one and nothing owes us a happy or quick or peaceful death, just like no one owes us a living. Leaving how we depart this world in the hands of fate is how it should be, it is how nature intended, it is part of the human story.

    • Who is to say a slow and painful death is a futile exercise, a pointlessly prolonged termination of an ultimately pointless existence? Death – in all its forms – has lessons for all of those left behind.

      You’re entitled to apply that philosophy to your own death. But, oh dear, the unthinkable arrogance of believing you are entitled to apply it to other people. If you think it’s noble to suffer at the end, then suffer. Don’t preach to other people that they have to suffer too because you think it will be good for them.

  4. I have known John Pollock since I was 13 years old. He was my family’s GP and mine right up until I moved to Wellington. He is an extraordinary person and was an extra ordinary GP. I cant even begin to tell of the numerous times he went way above and beyond to help me and my family. Including giving me his cellphone number when my mother was on life support, so I could ring him anytime I needed support.

    Part of this care was helping us through the long slow illness and eventual passing of my father, who died at 84 after many years of illness. My father also had alzheimers.

    John never suggested anything along the lines of euthenasia and we never asked. My father, had he had the option when he was fit and healthy possibly could have wanted it, however as it turned out, there was so much value in his life even when he was ill and his mind was muddled. Much more value that I could ever have imagined and I believe more than he could have either.

    The problems with the option of assisted suicide are many and varied. Firstly, nobody can judge to value of a life when going through illness until they go through that themselves. Secondly the burden on the ‘assistor’ is, in my view, too much to ask of any fellow human being.

    My opinion on this has changed dramatically from dealing with my fathers illness. That time was precious to me in a way I can never explain, and I believe every moment of it was also precious to him, despite what he might have anticipated had he known what was coming in advance.

    My heart goes out to John Pollock, but for the first time in my life I do not agree with him.

  5. ‘Fate’ is surely a patronising rationalisation for those who have never personally experienced intolerable pain, and/or watched a loved one suffer intolerable pain. How about if the elderly chap had been crying in agony for weeks, laying in his own excrement, vomiting, and slowly wasting away … how would his wife handle his ‘fate’ then?
    I can tell you for certain that rather than the “lesson for those left behind” it is more like severe Post Traumatic Stress that emotionally cripples your life. It certainly convinced me of the need for carefully regulated Voluntary Euthanasia.

    It would take a very empathically-challenged observer (psychopath?) to choose to stand objectively watching any animal suffer in agony and rationalise it as a ‘part of nature’ when he had the ability – but not the will – to relieve it’s suffering.

    By his logical reasoning I presume Tom Semmens also refuses antibiotics for infections, and might refuse first aid to his children or anyone else in need. Fate is a cruel indiscriminate Godlet indeed, if given free rein.
    Tom appears to be intellectualising suffering, therefore I suspect he follows some sort of rigid doctrine.

    In the proposition that voluntary euthanasia is a convenient slippery slope to push granny off, (so one can take that overseas holiday without the burden of an untimely demise), is to accuse those members of an intelligent/ethical society of an inability to draw or police a moral line.

    Tom, however, confuses the lines of this ethical debate i.e. his perceived view of the social acceptance of warfare and poverty as causes of death “in this beautiful world we live in”, to justify unnecessary extreme suffering. His base rationale is that there are people who suffer in agony and die, therefore we should all be prepared to suffer in agony and die.
    His justification is that he believes nobody owes us a good death … or a good life? Really?

    Voluntary euthanasia must be a rational individual choice, quite separate from the ‘passive euthanasia’ already widely practiced.
    Perhaps the ultimate answer is the provision of “a firmer ground for resisting unjustifiable killing” (Peter Singer, 1995, p.217).

  6. A challenge for you Brian. If religous belief is personal, subjective and arbitrary and is therefore disqualified as the basis for law-making, I would welcome some suggestions of other frameworks that could underpin law-making which do not ultimately exhibit exactly those characteristics. You talk as if when one elevates the law-making from its subjective foundations it becomes more objective, reasonable and pure. This of course is nonsense. Even the invocation of “rights” is not a given. Show me where they come from and I will show you something that is personal, subjective and arbitrary. Unless of course enshrined by law. And then one has a lovely circular argument by which the law is pure because it is founded in law.

    • A challenge for you Brian.

      My point of course was that the religious belief of any one individual or group should not determine state law. The ‘law of god’ should be kept separate from the laws of the state, unless, as is sometimes the case, they happily coincide. That, I believe, is a commonly accepted principle. If voluntary assisted euthanasia is against the religious beliefs of any one group, they have the same right as anyone else to vote or protest against the introduction of a law legalising voluntary assisted euthanasia. The same! Their religious belief should not give their views any greater weight than an atheist like myself. The god issue should not form part of the debate. State law should be neither personal nor subjective nor arbitrary. It should be the product of a democratic process, the will of the majority. The argument that the will of the majority comprises the personal, subjective and arbitrary opinions of thousands of individuals may have semantic worth but it has no practical worth. You think my argument is nonsense. I think yours is silly. I used to enjoy arguing like this when I was a Stage 1 student of Logic and Metaphysics. I’ve grown out of it. You know perfectly well what I mean. No-one should be denied the right to end their suffering because it is against the religious code of someone else.

  7. My wife died of cancer a few years ago.She clung to life to be with us for as long as possible.Eventually a time came where the pain was unbearable.She was supplied with morphine and fell into a peaceful sleep never to awake.I felt the morphine actually hastened her death When she awoke slightly they increased the dose and she immediately faultered passing on soon after.I sympathise with the plight of the terminally ill but consider the quest should not be to end their life but to alleviate whatever pain they may suffer.If in the process they pass away so be it but to administer a knowingly lethal dose seems a step to far.

  8. It is against Gods Law. We each have our own way in this life . Before we are born we have to choose what kind of experience we need at this time ,the older your soul gets the harder is experience ,your relatives are connected with you, that means they have to go through that with you. We live on planet of free choice and it is + and – ,think and get out of stereotype box, wake up. Your decision is very important for you and your loved once. What you will choose- light side or dark side? You will go at home with love and peace or to darkness? It is your life ,be strong.

  9. If ever there was a subject to increase background twaddle to foreground twaddle this is it. With you all the way Brian – watched my mother linger with a dread cancer, her hand gripping mine in pain and misery. To hell and damnation with those wishy washy ponderers and let the likes of my mother go in peace and dignity. Be gone hand wringers.

  10. “We’re not talking about abortion, we’re talking about voluntary euthanasia.”

    Since both is the termination of a human life I think there are some comparisons to be made here.

    I agree whole heartedly with PJR’s comment, pain relief should be given but if it shortens someone’s life then that is acceptable. I can’t agree with actually killing someone outright.

    One of my greatest concerns is that a “duty to die” will be created by legalizing euthanasia. Long drawn out deaths are expensive and often difficult for family members. How are we to determine what subtle pressures and expectations are created for the dying person when euthanasia is legal and acceptable?

    Why would a government want to pay for three weeks of use of expensive hospital beds when cheap euthanasia is available? Doesn’t it make better economic sense for a person to just die quickly and painlessly rather than cost the tax payer thousands for the same outcome only slower?

    • One of my greatest concerns is that a “duty to die” will be created by legalizing euthanasia.

      I think that is one of a number of genuine concerns, Tess. Whatever legislation may be drawn up in this area, by far the most important part of that legislation will be the provision of adequate safeguards against family or other influence being brought on the person to terminate their life. The most stringent criteria will also have to be applied in judging whether the person is determined to die and in presenting to that person every other available option and argument. I can only hope that our health services will never be so driven by economic circumstances that they would regard euthanasia as an acceptable way of freeing up resources.

  11. It seems to me that behind several of these comments lies the believe that “only God” (or nature or the equivalent) has the right to decide when a human will die. If you take away the belief in God (and I do), that leaves only nature. Yet, we don’t allow only nature to determine when our loved pets die – likewise, if our loved ones choose it, we should not leave their last days to the whims of nature. My life is, ultimately, mine. I wish, if possible and necessary, to have the choice about whether I leave its end up to nature or whether I decide enough is enough.
    My mother watched her mother die a lingering death and has several times expressed a horror of going through the same thing. She knows that, should a similar end await her, if it is within my power and if she wants it I will help her to avoid those last few weeks. Bugger the consequences – I wouldn’t put my pets through a slow, lingering death, so why shouldn’t I help my mother if she wants to avoid it?

  12. Thank you for this intelligent and reasoned blog post, which has prompted some interesting and considered responses from across a wide spectrum of viewpoints. I am enjoying reading the debate, and seeing the various perspectives and arguments, especially from those who have cared for terminally ill relatives. Most informative and interesting – great to see such this forum being used for intelligent debate and not descending into abuse and invective, like so many other interactive sites do.

  13. Without reference to any religious precepts — I can’t help, but feel, that euthanasia somehow diminishes us, as humans. At what point can we be sure that the terminally-ill are able to be make a rational decision to end their lives? How can we be certain they are safely inured from the subtle — and not-so-subtle — encouragement to make that decision, themselves?

    What about people, who have become quadriplegics (or worse), who don’t wish to carry on, living? Or, those suffering from progressive and degenerative illnesses — which renders their lives to be meaningless — and have become “burdens” to their families. Should these people be afforded the same rights as the terminally ill?

    You can extend the parameters, further, by including those suffering from severe clinical depression; where they see no respite from their all-consuming blackness, crushing them. Shouldn’t they be accorded the same rights as the so-called “terminally ill”, to effect their own release from the pain of having to exist?

    The boundaries can’t be defined, because there are none. The decisions will always be premised on how one is feeling at any one particular moment in time. The desire, which results in the determination “to end it all” (unlike the illness, itself), could be ephemeral, even whimsical. How can those professionals (counsellors and doctors etc), be asked to become complicit in an act, that runs counter to the very ethos of their practice?

    More problematic: how can you draft — yet, alone enact — legislation that covers the many exigencies of self-assisted suicide?

    • More problematic: how can you draft — yet, alone enact — legislation that covers the many exigencies of self-assisted suicide?

      Well it’s been done with considerable success in several countries, including Holland. The alternative is that people have to obtain suicide kits or books on how to commit suicide and are then forced to die alone with plastic bags over their heads or suffocating from carbon monoxide poisoning in their garages.

  14. “The alternative is that people have to obtain suicide kits or books on how to commit suicide and are then forced to die alone with plastic bags over their heads or suffocating from carbon monoxide poisoning in their garages.”

    See this is what worries me – the issue you present here is not the tragedy of suicide, but the tragedy of it not being done medically. It shifts the goal posts from suicide being something terrible and tragic, something to prevent, to suicide being called euthanasia and performed by a doctor.

    Some years ago, the grandfather of my partner at that time committed suicide. He hung himself in the garage. His depression had dogged him all his life and his father had committed suicide as well. He was an elderly man who just could not take it any more. Should he have accessed euthanasia instead? In many ways it was a release for him.

    How do we define intolerable suffering? The terminal cancer patient with days to live is obvious, but what about the depressed elderly? Or those with tetraplegia? People with MS? What about people with chronic pain?

    Legal euthanasia has only existed for a short time. We can say we are happy with Holland’s legislation now, what about in 50 years? What about when we have societies with a far greater elderly population. I’m terribly suspicious that as our demographics have aged so has the call for legal euthanasia grown with its concomitant economic benefits.

  15. Pip’s comment was marvellous. Thanks for sharing that Pip. I think the already mentioned problem of needing a third party to assist the suicide is an important one, and the one I have the most problem with.

    I liked Tom’s comment, but really I can’t agree that there is some mystical fate involved. Every day in nursing homes and hospices around NZ there are decisions about the appropriateness of applying “heroic life-saving measures” to the chronically ill and elderly. In some cases individuals express their clear preference that these measures not be undertaken. Is that fate if they intervene? Is it fate if they don’t?

    I get the whole spiritual thing. Recently my grandmother passed away, and was in good health until near the end when her cancer started to make it’s presence felt. Her children were happy for her to have effectively anaesthetising levels of pain killers administered for the last few days as they thought it would spare her distress. My mother was less certain, feeling that my Grandmother was robbed of her lucidity, dignity and knowledge of her passing. So even when it is not voluntary euthanasia there are similar decisions being made all the time that affect the end of people’s lives.

    My wife’s grandmother died recently, having suffered terribly with dementia related illnesses, rendered incapable of speech or even much recognition of those around her. Hours before she died my wife reported that she seemed so calm and serene and my wife had felt a real connection with her when she visited. She died when her children and a good number of her grandchildren were visiting. They all said it was a very special experience.

    I think I support Brian’s position, but by gum it ain’t a cut and dried question by any means.

  16. following on from some of the excellent comments above, people may voluntarily choose to end their life because they feel helpless in their situation. but in fact that situation could have been changed if our society had been willing to put more resources into improving their quality of life. so in effect, the individual choice is arrived at as a result of a failure by society to provide adequate care. actually, lauredhel makes the point much more eloquently than i could here:

    Christian Rossiter is a forty-something year old bloke who used to climb rocks and cycle and do all sorts of physically active stuff. He now has a high spinal injury, and can no longer do those things.

    So what have we, as a society, done for him? Set him up with communication devices such as a internet-enabled computer he can operate (he has talked about not being able to turn the pages of a newspaper)? Offered him opportunities for social inclusion, to the fullest extent that he can manage it? Equipped his home and supplied home nursing care so that he could live in his community and retain his social context? Provided any sort of life enrichment whatsoever?

    No. We shoved him in a nursing room, in front of a television set. Oh, but it’s cable, so that’s alright, eh? We did all we could!

    Now he wants to die. He’s been fighting for his right to refuse nutrition, because he can’t handle being shoved in a bed in a nursing home with nothing but Foxtel for company. Today, he won that right.

    […]

    I have not yet seen ONE PERSON question his treatment, question the way we as a society have failed him – NOT in our lack of provision of a way to quickly bow out, but in our COMPLETE failure to support him in finding out whether maybe, just maybe his life could be worth living.

    i realise you’re talking about a slightly different thing in terminal illness, but i think similar dangers could arise. other commenters have talked about the economic pressure argument, and this is simply an extension to that ie a societal failure to adequately provide decent services (in return for lower taxes, for example).

    ps hoping the html tags will work otherwise this is going to be a mess. would it be possible to provide a preview button for comments on this blog? and apologies for the long comment.

    • ps hoping the html tags will work otherwise this is going to be a mess. would it be possible to provide a preview button for comments on this blog? and apologies for the long comment.

      Can’t help with the preview button, Stargazer. And no need to apologise for the long comment. Thoughtful contributions are always welcome regardless of length.

  17. Dear Brian. Love you. I have read all the other messages, but think that somehow they don’t “get it”. We can make our thoughts known to our families and friends so that when the time comes they know how we want to act. Perhaps it could be lodged with our lawyers. If I suffered a most terrible stroke/accident/cancer, where I would not be able to look after myself,(I don’t want somebody else to wipe my bottom or feed me with a tube. I sincerely wish I would be allowed to die with dignity. That does not mean using the plastic bag or car exhaust. That is not dignified. There has to be another way. Also, those who want to suffer to the end, they must let it be known to their families and friends that is what they want. That is their choice. Thank you Brian. Keep pushing this debate.

  18. @christine: but what if you later changed your mind? and what if you found yourself in that particulr situation you describe and found that you would rather hang on to your life, no matter how seemingly low in quality or dignity, but you weren’t able to communicate your change of heart (eg a stroke impaired your speech, or something similar)? what then?

  19. “A denial of the possibility of the rule of law”

    Law is a very blunt instrument, and is not well suited to decide fine distinctions. Does someone truly “rationally” wish to die and end their suffering – or are they clinically depressed or feel guilt at being a burden on others. The problems associated with legalising the assisting of suicide may well be worse than those with the current law. Could it create more Harold Shipman like doctors (who was fascinated by the moment of death) and wouldn’t need much persuading to assist?

    Like with the death penalty, perhaps its better to let God or fate decide who lives or dies, not humans.

    • Law is a very blunt instrument, and is not well suited to decide fine distinctions. Does someone truly “rationally” wish to die and end their suffering

      I’ve known several people who ‘truly, rationally wanted to die and end their suffering”. I’m actually amazed that you could ask the question. And the Shipman example is really preposterous. Are we to base our laws on the actions of one psychopathic mass murderer?

  20. You’re entitled to apply that philosophy to your own death. But, oh dear, the unthinkable arrogance of believing you are entitled to apply it to other people. If you think it’s noble to suffer at the end, then suffer. Don’t preach to other people that they have to suffer too because you think it will be good for them.

    This comment made me want to stand on a chair and cheer. Thank you, Brian.

  21. @Marika

    What a load of rubbish.

  22. In many ways Brian I actually agree that religion should not determine state law. The point I was trying to make is that majority rule is not in itself a perfect solution.In fact it can lead to some horrible places.

    If I remember my jurisprudence correctly the Germans agonised long and hard after WW2 at the willingness of the legal system to condone the excesses of Nazism which just indicates how hard we find it to draw lines.

    After the war they reverted to a “natural Law” approach which regarded some principles as transcendent until they found one judge invoking a transcendent legal principle that women should take the names of their husbands!

    Which is the better approach “natural law” or majority rules? Don’t know but lets not kid ourselves that the harm principle in conjunction with majority opinion is capable of being an impenetrable barrier at the top of the slippery slope.

  23. Often, prolonged living compounds the misery of the terminal ill. The psychological anguish exceeds the actual physical pain and suffering.

    More often than not, the terminally-ill are emotionally vulnerable, confused and psychologically fragile. Hence, we can never be sure if the Dying are inured to outside influences when it comes to making “their” life-and-death decisions. Especially, if it comes to confiding with close family members who, maybe, motivated by self-interest when dispensing their counsel. Such as, consideration to the dilution of an inheritance (the cost of private, extended palliative care is not cheap); rather, than the heartfelt welfare of the dying or severely impaired.

    There is a risk that the carte blanche legalising of assisted-euthanasia, will be fraught with caprice, unholy motive, subjective perception and misinterpretation.

    Euthanasia, assisted or not, should be regarded as an extralegal act; but not as an outright violation of the law. It should not be given legal sanction; nor, should it be vigorously prosecuted, unless there is evidence of criminal intent.

  24. I agree many people with terminal illness may rationally want to end their suffering, and are entitled to do so. I hesitate at letting anyone legally assist them though, for the same reason I oppose the death penalty – the possibilities for human error or mischief are too great.

  25. We already have an academic who seems to think that it is a good idea to withdraw health funding for the elderly and ‘non-productive’ members of society and redirect the money to education and the future wealth producers. He no doubt would love the prospect of euthanasia and clearing out a bit of the ‘dead wood’. Therein lies part of the problem. How do you protect the vulnerable from the pressures, direct and indirect, of avaricious relatives and from society that regards them as ‘burdens’?

    There is also the matter of so caled individual choice. If I choose to be euthanased it is not as everyone appears to assume my choice alone. I am first of all imposing my choice on one or more members of the medical profession who have to carry out the deed. I am imposing my choice on my family who may not be so keen to see me go. I watched my mother die for three years. Had she asked me to end her life, legally or illegally, I would have helped her because of my love for her, even though it would have been against everything I believe. So it is not an individual’s choice; it affects other people; it forces others into making choices they may not wish to make.

    Pip, your contribution was immensely moving and profound. Your father would have been proud of you.

    Amelia, by all means disagree, but do not lower the tone of the discussion and expose your paucity of intellect with juvenile comments like yours.

  26. Wouldn’t it be better to improve the services around palliative care? I think we should make sure people die with dignity, dignity created out of our love and respect for them. Quality nursing can make intimate cares comfortable and dignified.

    I think it speaks volumes that Hospice NZ doesn’t support euthanasia.

  27. I, like Dr Pollock have terminal cancer. Mine is metastatic breast cancer. Some of you might have offered your opinions from a terminal illness perspective, but I feel the majority have not. What most of you do not understand, and unless you are in our position, cannot possibly comprehend, is that what we are fighting for is what everyone wants out of life – to be in control. Which is why, upon adulthood we are trusted to manage our income, our livelihood, our children’s upbringing, chose where we live and what we wear, sometimes well, and sometimes not so well, and why I feel outraged that we are not given the ultimate responsibility, and that is to manage our death as well. Yes, there need to be controls, a doctor and lawyer appointed, but no one should veer from the point that what defines a civilised society is how we treat and help people who are less fortunate. To have a terminal illness, for me, falls in to that category and I applaud Dr Pollock for putting himself in the public arena. I’m sure he would much prefer to be spending all the time he has left, privately, with his loved ones and not feeling that he has to wage such a public fight.

  28. Bravo, Michele.

  29. All the comments that lean against the legalisation, or the act of voluntary euthansia appear to come from people who are not in this situation. It also intrigues me how we (those of us like Michele and I with a terminal cancer) are referred to as “those people”, or (by Merv), “the so-called terminally ill”, actually that one doesn’t intrigue me it infuriates me, how very dare you!

    Perhaps some of these arrrogant, patronising, comments would change if “you” were actually faced with this degrading way to pass as your future.

    And to those who question where the boundaries will be, and say “it’s a slippery slop” etc, use some common sense, of course a medical professional wouldn’t condone someone who was a paraplegic (as mentioned above), or simply depressed for VE to be an option. We are talking about people who have no hope of a cure, who are in the process of dying, have a terminal illness, and are at the stage where life has become intolerable. If you, like Tom, choose to face your pain and suffering during your passage to death, in order to realise your divinity and experience an epiphany, that’s your choice, and I wish you every best with it.

    When I am bed bound, being kept alive by a ventilator because fluid has collapsed my lungs, being fed by a tube as my organs and intestines haved been ravaged with disease, crying because I have to watch people I love having to change my nappies and wash me, then please allow me the right to go with dignity. I’ll leave the lesson this time thanks Tom.

    As Brian states, the laws have been carefully drafted and work in other countries.

    These countries are clearly far more sophisticated, and empathetic, towards the needs of their society.

  30. For those who agree with euthanasia, why do you think Hospice NZ disagrees with it? As an organisation they are committed to providing the best care possible for the dying. If euthanasia is best practice, why not support it?

  31. Thirty years ago, I held my father’s hand as he died after weeks of intense agony. He was a man who survived WWII and the Korean War as an active and decorated participant, yet in his last few rational thoughts admitted to not realising that such pain existed.

    After all that time, the only arguments I see against volutary euthanasia come from those whose own weakness leads them to believe in a sky-daddy who disallows it.

    Plus ce change…

  32. Tess, I don’t know the answer to this, but as I will be in contact with them soon, I shall attempt to find out why.

  33. @ Ben

    “Amelia, by all means disagree, but do not lower the tone of the discussion and expose your paucity of intellect with juvenile comments like yours.”

    My comment to Marika stated my opinion clearly and concisely. Nothing more, nothing less.

  34. Thanks Tania.

  35. @ Ben

    Amelia is not lowering the tone, with her first comment. It’s her opinion, which she is free to state.

  36. I dont know why nobody has mentioned the Documentary Channel shown on sky TV on the 1st July at 10.30pm How to kill a human Being. also shown on 2rd July at 6.30am and 2.30pm. A British MP INVESTIGATED THE MOST HUMANE WAY TO DO THIS. I always thought hypoxia (THE lack of oxygen was one of the most humane, you fall into a sleep mode as experienced by pilots if they dont get enough oxygen at above certain heights and the test was done on the MP and he confirmed it was a very pleasant experience, but it was under strict monitoring conditions and oxygen was returned when it was not to late. However another person said experiments with Nitrogen gas on animals (a pig) showed that in 16 seconds they would be unconsious and if still breathing Nitrogen for 3 mimutes they would be dead. As you cant smell nitrogen it would be a painless way to die. Could this be the answer to euthenasia, get a bottle of Nitrogen Gas and give the person a mask and the on/off tap and let them get on with it in their own time.