Jake Bailey

As far as a health goes, I'm part of a group of people who have come extraordinarily close to, and for a sustained period of time walked the line of, death.

When my cancer was caught it was at stage four, and was doubling in size every 24 to 48 hours. Tumours all throughout your body which double in size at a rate that is virtually visible to the naked eye- it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie in which Samuel L. Jackson saves the world, I personally like to think.

It doesn't take a medical degree to work out that there was some risk to my life involved in that, and I guess there still is. There's about a 25-30% chance of my cancer coming back in the next few years.


I say all this for no reason other than to assure you that as someone who has come close to death, and might well go back there sooner than expected, I've no motives other than ensuring I have the best healthcare and most options open to me, should something go wrong. And that is why I'm a huge supporter of legalising euthanasia for terminally ill patients in New Zealand.

When my beloved grandmother died of cancer a year before I was diagnosed, the palliative care team who worked with us did an exceptional job to ensure she was comfortable and pain-free right until the end of her time.

She was able to pass in the house where she had lived for the past 50 years, and that meant a lot to her and us.

It was during that time that I witnessed just how good palliative care can be, and my family and I will forever be grateful to those medical professionals who made a difficult time much more bearable than it could have been otherwise.

However, there is only so much you can do to make someone who is dying comfortable. Not even they could remove her anxiety, or diminish her suffering, or do much more than sponge her tongue as it hung out of her mouth for 3 days, while her motionless body refused to let her go.

Aside from my own experiences, for me it boils down to this- in the case of a terminally ill patient, it's no one else's right to dictate another person's ability to choose when or how they wish to die, any more than it is their right to dictate to someone who they can marry, or whether they're going to have cereal or toast for breakfast tomorrow.

It opens an option. Clearly it's your choice whether you want to use it or not, and if not, then you can ignore it and it won't affect you on a daily basis.

It will go on around you and you won't even know about it, much like it already covertly does. Yes, euthanasia (or "assisted suicide") does already go on in New Zealand, just in an ad hoc manner, much like abortion did before it was legalised.


And much like that did, it puts people at unnecessary risks that come with things being cobbled together, not performed by medical professionals, without proper safeguards in place.

For a terminally ill patient, even having the option is power to them - the knowledge that if their pain and suffering gets too bad, they have a right as an adult to make a choice to stop it would be some kind of reassurance, as opposed to staring down into a deep dark pit of suffering without an end in sight.

The details of what safeguards and caveats need to be put in place to ensure a robust and safe piece of legislation are too hefty for a column, and they're also far beyond my knowledge.

It's something that can only be achieved through collective input and conversation, and that's where we all need to come to the table, regardless of where we sit on the issue.

Realistically, I'm pretty much just preaching to the choir. Most polls put about 70% of New Zealanders in favour of legalising euthanasia for terminally ill patients.

The last time a euthanasia bill went before parliament, in 2003, it was defeated by a margin of only a single vote - 59 against, 58 for. A few weeks back, David Seymour's private members bill to legalise euthanasia was pulled from the ballot, and will most likely pass.

So I only have two reasons for writing this. Firstly, to encourage everyone out there to have input on the issue, regardless of your opinion, to ensure this bill gets properly thrashed out during an election year.

And secondly, to explain to anyone out there who is sitting on the fence, feels uncomfortable with the subject, or is unsure how they feel about it at all, that as someone who has been there and seen both sides of it, it's something I support fully.

I'm absolutely not saying that I'm right, or to be agreed with just because of that. But I've got an opinion based on a unique experience, which is that it's an option I'd want for myself, and even if I didn't choose it, then I'd be happy to leave it there for anyone who did.