Nearly half a century ago I was involved in some discussion with a staff member of the Dunedin Medical School. There was a growing awareness that mere academic achievement was not the only quality that should be expected of incoming medical students. Having done extensive research in the criteria for selecting candidates for church ministry, I had the opportunity of suggesting to my medical friend that both professions required a high and demonstrable level of interpersonal relations. Perhaps especially among theological or medical specialists, who sometimes appeared to lack the "bedside manner" of the family GP or local minister. I know he took these thoughts to back to the Medical School.
As we have been concluding a five year relationship with the cancer experts at Greenlane Clinical Centre Bev and I have both been discussing the quality of care they have delivered to us.
We have to say that throughout this journey we have been treated with the greatest professional courtesy and yet also significant personal warmth. We have never been "talked down" to. We have never picked up any hint that we were perhaps taking too much of their time - even when we might have been. We have had many laughs and shared quite a few jokes. My attempts at personal interest in my circumstances have always been meticulously respected - even when sometimes I didn't really know what I was talking about. And my concerns for end of life choice were always heard with sympathy if not outright enthusiasm. Most importantly, all decisions about my medical journey were made in a context of mutual discussion and consensus.
And when they determined that it would be reasonable for me to go onto the very expensive drug Abiraterone (which had recently come onto the free list for 600 men) and I was uncomfortable with the country putting that much money into an old man nobody insisted that I must accept it.
But our consultant said "If this drug could could give you one more year of good quality of life, what could you do with that? He had been reading "me", not just my "case". He knew that there were worthwhile things I could do and that I would like to them. It was a challenge I could not turn down.
Now, eighteen months later, the drug has run its course and has been stopped. But I can look back on a number of significant projects that I carried through in answer to that challenge. And although I am much more at the mercy of the disease as it will now take its more rapid course, I can only say that I am deeply grateful for the opportunities of these last couple of years. And I have some hope for any time yet to come.
And for the whole five years of careful, warm, "professional" ministry by those whom we have met month by month, we offer our warmest thanks. In the confusion and concern in the public health sector at the present time, we want them to know that their efforts on our behalf are deeply, deeply appreciated. Thank you, all.