Don Brash - So much kinder to allow choice

  • December 15, 2015

I strongly support David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill, and were I still a Member of Parliament I would vote for it if given the opportunity, as I did the similar Bill in the name of Peter Brown when I was in Parliament.

Several years ago, I had a very dear friend who was suffering from severe abdominal pain. She had previously had bowel cancer and it was assumed that that had returned, though repeated hospital visits failed to detect the exact location of the cancer. She was in so much pain that she seriously considered going to Switzerland to get assistance to die. But by the time she made that decision, she wasn’t well enough to fly. Towards the very end, she told me that she had bad news and good news. The bad news, she said, was that her kidneys had failed. The good news, she said, was that her kidneys had failed – which meant that she would die quite quickly. Towards the very end, she was willing herself to die. It would have been so much kinder to have allowed her some choice in the timing.

A few months ago, I read “Being Mortal”, by Dr Atul Gawande, a prominent US surgeon. The book has become an international bestseller. In it he writes: “Suffering at the end of life is sometimes unavoidable and unbearable, and helping people end their misery may be necessary. Given the opportunity, I would support laws to provide these kinds of prescriptions to people. About half don’t even use their prescription. They are reassured just to know they have this control if they need it.”