Dying on our terms

Over the course of our living days most of us seek out autonomy and we find self-worth in the freedom to make our own choices. It is one of the hallmarks of life in a liberal democracy: for better or worse, generally, we get to decide how we will live, and what we will do with our lives.

The one sure thing in this life, sadly, is its inevitable end.  Regrettably, the freedom we enjoy during life is not currently afforded to us when facing death. Those facing terminal illness and unbearable suffering do not get to choose when it will end.

Many opponents to euthanasia make the point that we have world class palliative care specialists in New Zealand.  Indeed we do, and we are very fortunate that this is the case.  These same opponents maintain that there can be dignity in a death where pain is carefully managed.  Families can spend final cherished hours with their loved one.

I don’t dare to disagree with such claims.

I’ve seen first-hand how such loving and professional care can aid dignity in passing.  My grandmother, after battling cancer, passed in relative comfort thanks to exceptional palliative care. Family members were able to spend treasured final moments with her.

However, our access to quality palliative care does not guarantee everyone comfort and dignity, nor does it change the fact that in facing death we are deprived of an indispensable element of dignity we enjoy in life – the freedom to choose.

We may well choose to persevere to our last breath and “not go gentle into that good night”.  But, we also deserve, and are justified in demanding, the right to end our pain and suffering on our own terms.  By criminalising assisted dying the law currently denies this freedom.  The unavoidable result of this inhumane legal setting is that many are forced to suffer against their will.

David Seymour states: “The motivation for this Bill is compassion. It allows people who so choose and are eligible under this Bill to end their life in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones“.

I sincerely hope our law makers will be compassionate and exercise their vote of conscience in favour of this Bill  – extending to us, when the time comes to face death, the dignity of choice we so dearly treasure in life.

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