A week to go til the election and I'm amazed at the numbers of people who've already voted. All around my neighbourhood, there's been a steady stream of people filing in to cast their votes from the time the booths opened – I took a photo just the other day of three young people who wanted a memento of the day they cast their first vote, bless them.
What staggers me is how everyone can be so certain. Certain about their chosen candidate and party and certain about their answers to the referenda questions. I suppose some people are tribal voters and vote the same way every election; whereas I tend to weigh up policies and past performances and personnel. I'm getting there – but I'm glad the election was delayed as I've needed the extra days.
I had to have quite a think about the referenda, too. We've talked about both the legalisation of cannabis and the End of Life Choice Act at length on the radio and I've also enjoyed some robust discussions with friends and family, who are both for and against on the issues.
A friend of mine who I've always seen as a liberal is voting no because, she says, she saw what it did to people when she was living in Venice Beach, in California, for a number of years. If it was speed we were voting to legalise, she said, she'd have no doubts whatsoever. We'd boost our sluggish productivity and get rid of our obesity problem in one fell swoop! But dope, nope.
I think it's fair to say my friends are pretty evenly divided on the cannabis question but when it comes to the End of Life Choice Act, most of us are for it. We've all been lucky enough to have had pretty splendid lives so far, and for us, we want to live, not exist. Most of us believe that simply drawing breath does not constitute life. At the same time, I totally respect those who believe otherwise and if your faith precludes you from ticking the yes box, that's entirely your business.
I was concerned, though, to hear from the chair of the Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand, Dr Aileen Collier, who has real concerns about the ability of hospices around the country to offer the dignified, pain-free death that opponents to the End of Life Choice Act say can be offered to the terminally ill.
Every year, the government allocates $78 million to palliative care; costs are in the region of $155m per year. So that's $77m that must be found every year. And that means op shops, cake stalls and local fundraisers.
Dr Collier finds it extraordinary that the sector has to scratch around, in effect looking for coins down the back of the couch, to help people live their very best lives until they die. If the End of Life Choice Bill comes into effect, she says, there'll be a fully funded bureaucracy and administration that will exist solely to help people die. She says there aren't enough nurses in the aged-care sector, there aren't enough resources – and with New Zealand's death rate set to climb by 50 per cent as the population ages, she says hospices and hospital simply aren't equipped to cope.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Dr Collier says whether people choose the End of Life Choice Act or not, they should have access to safe, high-quality palliative care from people who are highly trained and compassionate and it should be available to all New Zealanders. At the moment, she says, there are many who miss out on the end-of-life care they deserve.
So bear in mind as you head to the polling booths over the next week, that if you intend to vote no to the End of Life Choice Act you better be looking at a party that is going to fund the palliative care you are going to be depending on at the end of your life. Or start honing your baking skills to help load up the cake stall outside your local hospice.
• Kerre McIvor Mornings, Newstalk ZB, weekdays, 9am-12pm