JOAN:

Recently I read the

End of Life Choice Bill

proposed by David Seymour. Submissions of one's views could be sent to Parliament before March 6. I found it to be compassionate, clear and full of safeguards against any misuse.

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I need to honestly state where I stand with regard to euthanasia. My mother died a long, slow and painful death in Sunderland Hospital, England. I was 25 and pregnant with my second child. My mother was 57 and my father insisted that she not be told that she was dying, although I knew that she knew. Hours before she died, I sat beside her bed, watching her crawl around it, moaning with pain and neither a nurse nor doctor coming near us. I didn't have time to grieve for the person whom I most loved as I had two children by then and a teaching job. My deep feeling of loss eased with time but her undignified death still haunts me.

My daughter and husband came back from the UK expecting Cassandra Jane, our first grandchild. Due to medical misadventure during birthing and greatly regretted by the doctors involved, Cassie lived for only four days.

After a time of grieving and mentally challenging these happenings, I decided to become a volunteer at Hospice Whanganui, soon to be situated on Anzac Pde. I cannot tell you what a privilege this has been for me. The care, compassion and tender love shown to those in their care allow me to say that all those who have worked there and those who still do, have taught me everything that I know about selflessness, wisdom and the ability to celebrate life. Nurses, doctors, chaplains, office staff and volunteers ease physical and emotional pain, calm fear, support families and friends and maintain the dignity of those who spend gentle time there, for rest, medical changes and, of course, life's end. I love this place. In spite of what one might think, this is a place of laughter, beauty and calm.
So, indeed, my wish is that there be more Hospices in New Zealand and across the world, and I am unable to understand why the Government offers only 48 per cent of the money required to run them.

However, I know and many others admit or should admit to knowing that we humans do not have all the answers. There are those who do not receive this care, or for whom palliative care does not bring about the death required. I cannot believe that a loving God has alone the right to give and take away life. We are not meant to suffer to be better people. I am mostly confused that it is legal for a doctor to accept and act upon a dying person's request to stop being fed or hydrated or to not receive further medical care or indeed to receive a dose to bring about death — a speedier death? — yet cannot, along with any other caring friend or family member, legally offer an end to living as chosen by any one of us.

Last week I saw an announcement in the Midweek that an Information Evening About The End of Life Choice Bill would be held in the Concert Chamber. We would hear three local medical specialists in palliative care explain the Bill. Having worked at Hospice with two of these doctors and having had the other doctor as my own GP for many years, these were people I greatly respected. They would clarify any wording or intention of the Bill for the audience. There was a very large audience. I made notes of everything. At the end of the addresses, I realised, to my astonishment, that each of the speakers qualified each point in the Bill with a condemnatory personal comment. I was already aware that two of the three speakers held strong religious views which, for them, meant not accepting euthanasia as a choice, but I also knew that the safeguards against their having to were strong and clear. But, oh so sadly, I realised that I was part of the minority of the audience who felt fervently that we had not simply had the Bill clarified in its contents but that there was a one-sided view of it that was held by the vast majority of the audience and which broached no other viewpoint. A few of us, including Mike and myself, asked why this was so, but were made to experience huge disapproval.

I respect everybody's views on this important subject. We all need to listen, think and decide. But, for me, the Bill is aimed towards a more caring, compassionate world and I believe, within the careful safeguards proposed, we have the right to choice. May I finish by saying that the letter in today's Chronicle from Melinda Bolton was incorrect both factually as regards the advertisement and in its condemnation of those who asked questions or passionately held a different viewpoint.

MIKE: In praise of helpful and reliable tradesmen! Last week we had a problem with our Fisher and Paykel dishwasher, purchased in 2011 from Harvey Norman. The upper drawer was not functioning correctly, so we called on Dave Keheley. He checked the machine, pointing out mildew and corrosion under the front panel, and said it would be wiser to invest in a new one, rather than incur the expense of costly repairs. He also suggested that we consult Harvey Norman on the problem.

Last Wednesday afternoon Joan went to Harvey Norman and explained the situation to a very helpful assistant, who said he would contact Fisher and Paykel. A couple of hours later we received a call from the Appliance Repair Centre, saying Fisher and Paykel had asked them to examine our dishwasher and would 8.30am on Thursday morning be convenient. Bruce arrived at 8.20, checked the machine thoroughly and told me he would report back to the manufacturers. Just before noon he rang me to say that Fisher and Paykel were willing to replace the electronics free of charge. All this in less than 24 hours! We were absolutely staggered at such prompt, efficient and understanding service, involving three different firms. Thanks to all three and Dave Keheley especially, for his free advice.

JOAN: Editor Paul Brooks has written about artist Fleur Wickes this week. May I just add that her intimate exhibition moved me deeply. I wrote to Fleur saying "Thank you! Your exhibition is so special. I honour your talent, your courage, the gentleness of your home and the privilege of being there. I have been so deeply moved."

JOAN: Talk about contrast in weather! While we luxuriate in the best summer I can recall in New Zealand, my sister is enduring "the beast from the east," as bitterly cold weather assaults Britain. Her photo says it all.
mjstreet@ xtra.co.nz