If there's anything worse than a busybody telling us how to live, it's a busybody telling us how to die. Stand up National MP and former gardening guru Maggie Barry.
Coming from the world of seasonal culling, Barry has decided the concept of voluntary euthanasia is so anathematic that she is going to start up a parliamentary encounter group on palliative care, and kill off the sensible legislation of Labour MP Maryann Street that gives the terminally ill the opportunity to end their suffering.
Of course, she hasn't been so direct and honest as to say that is her group's purpose. Rather her group wants to make dying more attractive. Just so long as it doesn't involve, well, dying.
There can be no question that Parliament is wholly out of step with public sentiment when it comes to death. For the past two decades, public opinion polls have indicated New Zealanders clearly want the option of voluntary euthanasia should their medical prognosis be a lingering, uncomfortable and distressing death.
Barry's answer is that modern medicine and good management can take all those factors out of the equation, especially the uncomfortable and the distressing. So that we can linger a little longer.
Her proposition is false.
There are always going to be bad deaths. There are always going to be deaths that neither pain medication nor hospice helpers can make any better.
And there are always going to be folk among us - very possibly you and I - who prefer to order our passing if we are adjudged to be terminal and there is no prospect of an alternative.
We will do so for a variety of reasons. Because we don't want the pain or the other alternative of a numbing and often gaga existence. Because we don't want our bodily functions to erode to the point where we lose our self- dignity and self-control. And because we don't want our loved ones' last memory of us to be of the tortured body and mind that the dying is making us.
At such point all that we are asking - and Street's bill delivers - is that a friendly physician voluntarily assist us in ordering our dignified demise.
Barry and her palliative care group want to deny us that choice. They want to tell us that we will die according to their dictate.
It is a fascist overview they seek. And they raise the chimera of a nice, pleasant death by suggesting that if palliative care is made better, then no-one will want to die. Even though they are dying.
But despite medical advances, there are still bad and painful and undignified deaths every day and night that defy medicine's best efforts. Barry knows that. Every MP who joins her coterie knows it too. Their primary purpose is to stop you and I, should we be terminal and in dramatic decline, constructing our own dignified passing.
Sorry Maggie, but my life is not yours to garden.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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