Over four years Esther Richards battled an aggressive brain tumour that left her terminally ill, while living in immense pain.

During the ordeal she developed osteoporosis, giving her 20 small fractures through her spine.

While she never considered ending her life, knowing there was a safe and legal option to relieve the burden would have been a "huge relief".

"I spent a lot of time focusing on death, knowing that it was coming at some point, but not knowing when. Having control over that would have been very comforting."


Tonight the End of Life Choice Bill is expected to pass at its third reading in the House. If it does get the 61 votes needed, the bill - which would let terminally ill adults legally request assisted dying - will be put to a public referendum alongside the 2020 general election.

Esther Richards says people should be able to die painlessly
Esther Richards says people should be able to die painlessly "surrounded by those they love and who love them". Photo / Supplied

Tauranga-based Richards, 56, who campaigns with the End of Life Choice Society of New Zealand, said she supported the bill because she believed in "autonomy".

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"To die painlessly surrounded by those they love and who love them."

She has held that view for over 30 years, after watching her stepfather die painfully from pancreatic cancer, and a few years later her mother from a brain tumour.

She knows what it is like to plan for the end of one's own life, and grieve for that life - as well as watching those who love you coming to terms with what was happening and grieve too.

Richards' cancer diagnosis was lifted in 2017, but she fell ill again this year.

Initially doctors thought tumours had returned, but only a few months ago she found out she was instead experiencing brain bleeds - a long-term side effect from her chemotherapy.


This meant Richards was no longer terminal, but rather suffering from a life-threatening illness.

"I could have a stroke this week, or in 10 years. I am still dying, it is just no longer as predictable as cancer."

She constantly feels dizzy, can't concentrate for longer than thirty minutes, and can't even ride in vehicles.

"I live in pain and with nausea every day."

Since Act Party leader David Seymour's bill was first introduced several changes had been made in order to convince MPs who were unsure about its safety.

It now only applied to those diagnosed as having less than six months left to live, where it previously included those with grievous and irremediable medical conditions.

This excluded people like Richards, although she said she supported the bill in its current form.

She was "frustrated" at concerns being raised, and said there were many safeguards in place.

One of the main critiques of the bill was that some people who were terminally ill could feel pressured to end their life, especially if it were impacting on others who were looking after them.

Richards said she trusted doctors to be able to pick that up.

The bill required two doctors to be consulted, and for the process to be stopped if any coercion was detected. People could also back out at any point.

With the bill presumed to pass its third reading this evening, the final decision will be left the New Zealand public in the 2020 election.

"There is still a big fight ahead, but I think Kiwis will support the right to choose."