Dangers for the vulnerable

June 25, 2019

Serious question: how do people who believe in minimising the power of the state reconcile that view with support for giving the state the power over the life and death of vulnerable people?

The Bill that seeks to legalise euthanasia would restrict its availability to people with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live.

Doctors can predict how long someone might survive, but they can be wrong.

A year ago a friend was told he had five months to live.

He has just bought a neighbouring farm and is about to launch a newly built boat.

He still has cancer but he is on a drug which has not only kept him alive but is allowing him to live a good life.

Eighteen months ago a friend emailed to say she was on the way to look after her grandchildren because their other grandmother was in the very last stages of life with hours or at best days to live. At the 11th hour she was given a new drug and she now has no signs of the cancer that was killing her.

These are true stories, Jacqui Dean who sat on Parliament’s Health Select Committee, which launched an inquiry in response to a petition calling for a law change to permit medically assisted dying in the event of terminal illness. heard more:

. . . I am opposed to euthanasia, with my resolve only strengthened after sitting on that committee and hearing the heartfelt testimony of hundreds of people who bravely faced death and the families who lost loved ones.

I heard some wonderful stories of love and tenderness, sad stories of heartbreak and loss, stories of great courage and inner strength, and through it all I had the utmost admiration for those who came before us to share their deepest fears and their greatest joys.

The Samoan grandmother who talked of the death of her father – a beautiful and moving family experience which she told us was gentle and loving and filled with prayer.

The woman whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 28, but who outlived three fatal prognoses and didn’t actually pass away for fourteen years.

This woman pointed out that no-one can predict the final outcome of a terminal illness, and she and her daughter were grateful that they never gave up and that the family got to share those extra years together.

And the blind man who had fought against adversity all of his life and wanted to encourage people to live in hope and not give in to despair.

There were stories of courage and strength, which reflected the best of the human spirit.

Stories from those who made it their life’s work to support the dying through palliative care, and submissions from groups motivated by strong beliefs around death and dying.

We also heard from those approaching the end of their lives.

This included a man, in his 40s who was dying of prostate cancer, who spoke with anger about his life being robbed. And others who said they feared death and wanted to take the pain away as quickly as possible when their time came.

There’s no doubt decisions made at the end of life are emotionally charged, highly personal and reflect circumstances and timing that vary from individual to individual.

The care that people get at this time can make a fundamental difference to people’s experiences.

For that reason, I support the power of good that hospice and palliative care services provide.

Dedicated and diligent guidance from these providers can assist terminally ill people to die peacefully and with dignity.

They believe that if people can come to a place where they can accept their end of life, it can have a huge impact on them and a lasting positive effect on their families.

I was deeply affected by the impassioned testimony the committee also heard from groups representing the disabled, elderly and the mentally ill.

Many of these people genuinely fear for the future if they become a physical or a financial burden on their families. They also questioned whether there could be circumstances where they may be manipulated or pressured into ending their lives.

This worries me deeply. If we legislate for the right to die, the negative impact on vulnerable groups will be huge.

In my heart I simply cannot accept that a law can be developed which will completely protect the vulnerable.

One of the most moving moments of the select committee process came when we heard from a Wellington man who said in the past he had been suicidal.

He recognised the grave consequences if euthanasia was made legal in this country. The option of taking one’s life would become much more normalised and he believed vulnerable people might make a decision that could never be reversed.

Our suicide rates are already too high – we don’t need death by choice as another signal that ending one’s life is OK.  . . 

The Select Committee that dealt with the Bill said it was unworkable. the doctors in the Care Alliance agree with them.:

. . . The Care Alliance, a charity which opposes physician-assisted euthanasia, has taken out a full-page ad in the New Zealand Herald.

The signatories endorse the views of the World Medical Association and New Zealand Medical Association, that euthanasia is unethical, even if made legal.

The letter says it supports effective pain relief and palliative care, and the right for patients to decline treatment if they wish.

But it says crossing the line to assist a person to die would weaken the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr Sinead Donnelly, who organised the letter, said the bill is unworkable.

“The message is that as doctors we don’t want to be part of it. You’re going to, in our view, destroy the profession of medicine by drawing us in to ending the life of our patients and two, the risk to the vulnerable is much too great.”

The letter has been signed by 1061 doctors, of the 17,000 registered doctors in New Zealand. . . 

The NZMA opposes the Bill:

It’s current chair, Kate Baddock said that had not changed and would not. 

“It would be impossible to craft a law that would completely protect people from sublte coercion and it’s also impossible to craft a law that means that people are totally competent,” she said.

“Therefore there should be no law, there should be no euthanasia.”

She is backed up by the Secretary General of the World Medical Association, doctor Otmar Kloiber.

“We have a huge and overwhelming majority that says no, this is not for us, and doctors should not be involved in killing patients,” he said.

“That is a very clear and very broad view which we have.”

Australian ethicist doctor Margaret Somerville spent 40 years in Canada and has nine doctorates, and said it was not over the top to use the word “killing”.

“This is a momentous decision, to say that you will allow intentional killing,” she said.

“You’ve got to be clear about what we really are authorising. This voluntary assisted dying – we all want assistance in dying. And then you give it to the medical profession, the healers in our society, it’s a radical change in our most fundamental values.” . . 

Lawyers have concerns too:

. . .Public lawyer Grant Illingworth QC said it was a very serious issue and mistakes about death and dying could not be undone.

“That’s why we abolished the death penalty in this country,” he said.

“The kind of legislation currently before parliament must contain safeguards that are so clear and so comprehensive, that any possibility of dying by mistake is excluded beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The statute proposed by David Seymour fails to meet that standard by a very wide margin in my opinion.” . . 

Life is terminal, but who can say when it will terminate?

It’s impossible to be precise about how long even very ill people might live and there are very real dangers in giving the state the power over life and death of vulnerable people.


Doris Day – 3.4.22 – 13.5.19

May 14, 2019

Singer and actress Doris Day has died.

The singer turned actress starred in films such as Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk and had a hit in 1956 with Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

Her screen partnership with Rock Hudson is one of the best-known in the history of romantic movies. . . 

Born Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff in April 1922, Day originally wanted to be a dancer but had to abandon her dream after breaking her right leg in a car accident.

Instead she began her singing career at the age of 15. Her first hit, Sentimental Journey, would become a signature tune.

Her films, which included Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and That Touch of Mink, made her known around the world.

But she never won an Oscar and was nominated only once, in 1960, for Pillow Talk, the first of her three romantic comedies with Hudson.

Honours she did receive included the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2008.

Her last release, the compilation album My Heart, went to number one in the UK in 2011. . . 

 


Can it ever be safe enough?

May 3, 2019

The re-entry to Pike River won’t go ahead today as planned:

Andrew Little announced on Thursday there has been a set back with the Pike River Mine re-entry due to elevated oxygen levels at the far end of the drift.

The minister described the elevated levels as “unpredicted and unexplained,” and because of this, the mine will not be entered, although there will still be an event for families.

“If you can’t explain it, you stop what you’re doing until you can,” he said.

The shift in oxygen levels means the atmosphere in the drift has changed and the air is no longer breathable. . . .

Calling off the re-entry is the right decision.

But it raises questions: can there be any guarantee that there wouldn’t be “unpredicted and unexplained” elevation in oxygen levels while people were in the drift and what would happen if there was?

That leads to another question: can it ever be safe enough?


Lest we forget

April 25, 2019

Lest we forget, we say solemnly.

Lest we forget the sacrifice of those who served in war zones.

Lest we forget that many paid with their lives, many with their health, and that none could return untouched by the horrors they experienced.

My maternal grandfather served with the New Zealand Army in World War I. My mother said he never talked about it and buried his medals in the garden.

My father served with the New Zealand Army’s 20th Battalion. He too didn’t ever say much about his experiences, though did show us the photo of he and the four other men who were the only survivors of the company of 120 after the Battle of Ruweisat Ridge.

When I hear lest we forget I think of that and give thanks I don’t have to live with the memories of what it was like to be there.

No matter what we’ve read, listened to and watched, none of us who have never served in a war zone can understand what it was like.

The Veteran at No Minister, has written a post that reminds us the impact that fighting a war had not just on those who served and not just while they served.

Lest we forget.

 

 


Don’t let them drown

April 20, 2019

Ashburton District Council, Water Safety New Zealand irrigation companies, MHV Water, Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation, and Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation, are pushing the importance of adult supervision around water.

. . . In the last 10 years, there have been 58 preventable toddler drownings in New Zealand. As a vibrant farming community, the Ashburton District has many water races, irrigation ponds, streams and rivers, most of which are not fenced or restricted, and many are often on private properties. These waterways can pose a deadly threat to unattended children,” Ashburton District Council Chief Executive, Hamish Riach explained.

“It is not realistic to expect every waterway in rural areas to be fenced. With so many potential drowning hazards around, it is vital that everyone is keeping a vigilant eye on their young ones at all times. The Council is proud to be working in partnership with local irrigation companies and Water Safety NZ to help reinforce this crucial message.” . . 

One of our staff rang a few years ago to say his pre-school daughter was missing.

The house was fenced and gated but if she had managed to get past those barriers there were troughs and an effluent pond nearby which could have claimed her life.

Eight of us began searching and were on the verge of calling emergency services when the child’s sister found her, curled up in the bottom of her (the sister’s) bed.

That story had a happy ending, too many do not.

 


Separation saved women

March 25, 2019

The roll call of the 50 victims of the Christchurch mosque terror attacks show 46 men and four women.

 

The Muslim requirement for women to worship in a separate space from men cost the lives of more men and fewer women.

That isn’t an argument in  favour of discrimination or of women’s dependence.

The deaths of husbands has left some women desperately wondering how they’ll manage:

Widows of the mosque shooting victims are struggling in the wake of the attack. Some of the women needing support can’t drive and don’t hold jobs.

Shakti, a group helping women, has identified 13 families so far where women now facing life as sole providers. Some of them are very young, with young children and new to the country.

Shakti councillor Shila Nair says some women don’t hold a current license, making ordinary tasks more difficult.

“That kind of increases their difficulty by quantum leaps actually because driving is very essential to get to the shops and other places,” she told Newshub.

Others have been in co-dependent relationships and are struggling with everyday tasks. Nair says she visited a widow who doesn’t know how she will adapt.

“She told me, ‘How do I manage? Because I’ve never even gone out and done shopping on my own.'” . . 

The outpouring of aroha and sympathy and the show of compassion in the face of evil and tragedy have been heartwarming but most of us are already turning back  to our normal lives.

But normal isn’t normal any more for the families of victims.

ACC will provide some financial assistance but the women who have been left without husbands will need more practical help.


Broken-hearted not broken

March 22, 2019

The Spinnoff has an abridged transcript of the speech delivered by Al Noor Mosque Iman Gamal Fouda of  in Christchurch this afternoon.

Last Friday I stood in this mosque and saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist who killed 50 people, wounded 48 and broke the hearts of millions around the world. Today, from the same place I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe who fill the hearts of millions.

The terrorist tried to tear the nation apart with evil ideology. Instead we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable. And that the world can see injustice an example of love and unity.

We are brokenhearted but we are not broken.

We are determined to not let anyone divide us.

We are determined to love one another and to support each other. This evil ideology of white supremacy did not strike us first, yet it has struck us hardest. But the solidarity in New Zealand is extraordinary.

To the families of the victims, your loved ones did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope. . .

Our loss of you is a gain to New Zealand’s unity. Your departure is an awakening not just for our nation, but for all humanity. Your martyrdom is a new life for New Zealand and a chance of prosperity for many. Our assembly here, with all the shades of our diversity, is a testament of our giant humanity.

We are here in our hundreds and thousands, unified for one purpose. That hate will be undone, and love will redeem us. . .

We don’t have to share others’ faith, to worship as they do, to believe what they do.

But we must be unified in our resolve to undo the hate and be redeemed by love.


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