Photo: Phil (Mex) Bouzaid
On Saturday 10th November, I worked on a market stall at Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti, together with some friends who support the legalisation of assisted dying.
Our objective was to gather signatures to take as a petition to our local MPs Hon Nathan Guy and Hon Kris Faafoi to request them to vote YES at the Second Reading of the End of Life Choice bill in April next year.
Effortlessly, we collected 90+ signatures in the space of three hours (one every two minutes). People saw our T-shirts and made their way over, reaching for the pens we’d tied to clipboards placed on our table, eager to sign.
One woman told me that her aunt had recently starved herself to death in a nursing home as it was her only way to legally escape from an existence of suffering. She’d lost her hearing, then her vision, had multiple medical conditions but was as sharp as a tack mentally and wanted to hasten her death – so she starved herself. It took weeks. Self-starvation is legal but a gentle, easy death is not.
A palliative care Nurse Practitioner grabbed a pen and signed with determination. She said she’d seen some terrible things, suffering that she felt was inhumane and that she was ashamed of. She was fully supportive of assisted dying.
We heard one heart-wrenching story after another. Tears, bitterness and anger.
No MP who is willing to stand in the market place with me for an hour will be able to continue deluding himself/herself into believing that New Zealanders are satisfied with the status quo. They are furious at Parliamentary inaction. They are bitter that the blindingly obvious is not acted upon. They are livid at the interference of churches in citizens’ rights and at their sham scaremongering.
Over and over again, we were thanked for being in the market place, for standing up for the majority, for enabling them to express their wish to their local MP.
I invite you to come with me one time and you’ll see for yourself. Or enable me to come with you. Not to a carefully stage-managed townhall event to which rent-a-crowd is invited by one of the guest speakers so as to provide an appearance of a 50/50 opinion, but to the authentic experience. Come with me to the market place, unannounced.
Then tell me that palliative care is sufficient to ensure a good death. Then tell me that very few people die badly in our country. Then tell me that the vulnerable are not right now being coerced – coerced into prolonged suffering due to lack of decent legislation to enable a different choice.
Ann David is a retired human resources professional living in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. She has been a campaigner for the right to die with dignity for the past 15 years, initially in Australia and since 2009, in New Zealand. She is a member of the End of Life Choice Society and of the NZARH.