Friday, August 11, 2017

Managed death

Image result for wilding pines nz
This afternoon I heard Hon Maggie Barry, Minister for Conservation, describing the problem of dealing with wildling radiata pine trees damaging the conservation estate. She called it “managing” the problem and then added, “Well, killing them”

I recall that when my Dad was in the final stages of life, his doctor told me in an aside, “This is what we call a managed death”. I knew what he meant. So, I think, would the Hon Maggie. I should have stayed to ask for her personal views on end of life choice.

Dad should have had choice months before his “managed death”.  I hope we change the law so that I will have choice if it comes to a slow death with total paralysis....

A Lost Opportunity


Image result for voice for life nz
There's going to be no trip to Whangarei.
I was looking forward to an opportunity to dialogue with "Voice for Life" supporters next month.
They set up an event with two speakers from each side of the voluntary euthanasia  issue and a forum and open discussion. I was nominated to be one of the speakers on the side of - guess what! - End of Life Choice.
But it seems their main speaker on the Voice for Life side cannot attend at that time, so they have cancelled the event. A palliative care specialist, he was to come from Queensland. Could they not find someone to step in at a month's notice? And could they not find someone in this country to support their case anyway?
I am disappointed because I had looked forward to the dialogue. It's not as though their position is without credibility. There are large numbers of people in churches and in the medical profession who have real problems of conscience on the issue of what they regrettably call "Euthanasia". I don't want to disparage or ridicule their point of view. But I would have relished the opportunity to clarify and understand more of the issues, on both sides, for "undecideds".
And I suppose I might have sneakily enjoyed challenging the expert about how he might "palliate" the major paralysis that is likely to be the way my life will end.

But my genuine disappointment is that I won't be able to explain that I just want the rest of us to be able to make the "Choice" that they already have the freedom not to have to make.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

No Change, says the Committee


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The Parliamentary Committee on Health has tabled its report in the House. It has not recommended a law change to allow a few people have some choice at the end of their lives.

That's no surprise. Members of the Committee warned those of us who were making submissions that they didn't expect to produce any dramatic proposal. Their best hope at that time was that if David Seymour's bill should come up in the ballot box, Parliament would value the huge body of data the Committee uncovered as it listened to a thousand personal submitters.

Apart from the obvious basis of the Chair, the Committee must be congratulated on their openness to listen to everyone who wished to speak to them. They put themselves under considerable pressure to enable widespread opinion to be canvassed.  Now that that the Seymour bill is on the table their work should provide all the material Parliament could possibly need as it decides how to handle the matter.

But, it seems, that will now wait until the election puts together a new Parliament. Well, the few dozen who may benefit from a change in the law are used to waiting...





Saturday, July 15, 2017

That TV1 News Item Last Week!


If blog readers happened  to miss last night's TV news item, here's the link, kindly provided by Political Reporter Katy Bradford, whose team made such a splendid job of the piece.

The broadcast ended a very busy week for Bev and me. We had at least two things on each day and there was some difficulty organising a date to do the camera work. Then it had to be cancelled because they couldn't get a camera. The wild storm over the whole of the country dominated the news for three or so days and the piece couldn't be aired until Friday.

And that day we were using our retirees Gold Card to bus and train right over to Penrose to pick up our cute five-years old all-electric Leaf. We walked back into the house, turned on the midday news and there was my face all over the intro piece. Happily, they found something better for the 6pm news.

But it was a privilege to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of End-of-Life Choice NZ. I wanted to support the view that we've heard all the arguments on both sides. It's now time for the Politicians to make up their minds and vote. David Seymour's bill popping up out of the ballot box a few weeks ago has made it an election issue  It's time has come.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My response to Amitav Ghosh's THE GREAT DERANGEMENT



This piece turned out to be not so much a book review as a sermon. But perhaps that's the kind of response Ghosh would like...

The Great Derangement
Climate Change and the Unthinkable                                             
Amitav Ghosh     University of Chicago Press 2016
Ghosh is an Indian writer of considerable academic distinction. His main output has been historical novels of great length, precise detail, daunting length and fascinating descriptions.
This book, The Great Derangement, is not a novel but enjoys the same attention to detail. It deals with climate change but clearly from an Asian perspective. He writes in three sections:
Stories:
Great climatic events have occurred before. The biblical story of the Flood should say something to us! In 1978 Ghosh was right at the epicentre of the only known tornado ever to hit Delhi. Not much is known of the Mumbai cyclone of 1882 where one eighth to one quarter of the population of 800,00 died — primarily because the British encouraged the population to move onto the buffer islands of the delta. In 2005 and 2015 vast deluges have completely overwhelmed the drains of Mumbai.
But get this: in about 1300AD there were stone tablets placed along the upper shore of a coastal valley in Japan. They proclaimed: nobody should build a house below this level. Not only did the people build a city on the waterfront but they established a nuclear power plant there as well. We all know what happened at Fukushima in 2011.
The colonisers of the last three centuries imposed their transport needs on people who often knew better than to live near the shore. All the world’s major cities of the last three centuries have been built close to the sea routes. Colonialism and the coal economy have enforced development of this vulnerability. We continue be de-ranged from known and obvious historical reality.
History:
The great majority of potential victims of climate change are Asian. Rising sea levels could cause relocation of 50m in India and 75m in Bangladesh. 24% of India’s arable land is already turning into desert. Ghandi, 1928:
God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. If an entire nation of 300m engaged in similar economic exploitation (they) would strip the world bare like locusts.
But Asia presses ahead with all manner of Western-style medicine, higher education, nuclear armament and space exploration. The standard of living expectations of so many fortunate Chinese are an obvious case in point as we see the massive residences going up in our own suburbs.
Politics:
In the period of dramatically rising emissions since WW1, the literary and creative elite have let their output be “deranged” from climate change realities. Only a handful of novel writers, dramatists and artists are dealing with real possibility of climate change and they are usually Sci Fi rather than mainstream. What we might call the prophetic role is gone from the creative culture of most nations.
But do we notice? We know: Where were you when Kennedy was killed? Or: Where were you during 9/11? But do you remember the month when CO2 in the atmosphere reached 400ppm? The last time that was so high there was no human life on the planet. We live on the edge—we separate ourselves from the unthinkable.
Widespread denialism on the one hand and vigorous activism on the other clash to produce another derangement which seems to ensure there is no political change.
Strangely, the American Military has somehow sidestepped this political derangement and is investing billions in alternative energy strategies.
As an Asian writer, Ghosh is particularly cynical about the “armed lifeboat metaphor”–that some of us will be lucky and will survive—if we don’t let others get their hands on our resources.
In a fascinating criticism of the Paris Accord, Ghosh compares it with an encyclical from Pope Francis produced a few months earlier the same year. “We fail to see the deepest roots of our own failure”... There’s no language like that in what he calls the Paris Accord’s “waterfall of gerunds”—recalling, welcoming, recognising.
At the very end of the book Ghosh appeals for the great religions of the world to take up the issue. Countries will not do it—either by themselves or internationally. They are structured — deranged, you might say—to look after their own people. Only religions span the world. Religion may be the world’s only hope.
Do we need old-style evangelists?


What am I going to do? 

Almost all NZ's electricity is produced from renewable resources, so in two days we are taking delivery of an electric car....

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Ca Pros Report


Otherwise known as the Metastatic Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer report (I am now officially diagnosed as MCRPC.

After one month on Abiraterone my PSA is not significantly down but at least it's what the white-coated ones call "static". And, checking my pulse and blood pressure once a week and measuring my ankles now and then, I seem to have had no discernible side effects. So far, so good.

Part of taking out this new lease on life involved accepting nomination for the Village Residents' Club Committee and at the annual meeting yesterday I was elected. That'll be an interesting and challenging experience as the previous committee was not highly regarded. But there will be some people who won't necessarily want a whole lot of change at once. We are going to have to take it very quietly, I suspect.

Another annual meeting tomorrow. I expect to be coming off the Community Patrol Board  but will continue with media and promo work. Which will probably mean I will have to go to meetings anyway! But it's good to see some new people offering... and we have a very substantial team of volunteers these days as the profile of the Patrol is being raised in the community...


Thursday, June 22, 2017


I’ve just received the last issue of Budgetline. This magazine has been coming to me for longer than I can remember in my rather remote capacity as a Life Member of New Zealand Family Budgeting Inc.
The short articles in this issue are quite poignant as it has been given over entirely to the Head Office staff and other key people who are losing their positions in the big re-shuffle that is taking place. Again and again I read of disappointment that the organisation which they have served, both as paid staff and volunteers, is losing its identity next week.
In 1973 I wrote the first letter that went to about 25 organisations with a proposal to form a national Federation. Later we got a couple of dozen people together in Wellington for a day. And what an outcry there was! They were afraid they’d lose their autonomy, their personal involvement, their idiosyncratic workers. They didn’t want to have a national boss...
But it was all about money. Every group needed some financial assistance for expenses for its volunteers. Some wanted to pay experts to do the job. Government would only give assistance to the 30 or so groups if they presented an organised front. So, with mixed feelings, the Federation came into being.
It’s been a huge success. It has lifted standards, provided proper supervision and training and widened the work. And, to the concern of some of us who were around in the 1970s, it has absorbed millions of dollars a year of taxpayer funding to achieve this.
But there are other groups involved in this kind of work who have never affiliated or don’t qualify for affiliation. Government now invites all family budgeters to come together in some much broader organisation. So the Federation, which we brought into being under pressure from successive Governments, will next week be wound up because the Government wants to move in a new direction.
It’s touching to read the stories of those who have worked in the Federation in the last decade or two. But times have changed, politics of voluntary community services have changed and the need in the community is more vast than any of us could have conceived in 1973. So some of the Federation’s prized principles will be surrendered and unfamiliar territory will have to be traversed. At the end of this month, everyone will move on.
I salute those who transformed a modest voluntary operation into the NZ Federation for family budget advice of a very special kind. As it moves on, I hope its people will infuse the new organisation with a sense of personal service and commitment. This new venture must not become just another quasi government department.

Dave Mullan is author of
The Family Budgeters, a personal account of the work of family budgeting from the 1960s to the establishment of the Federation.  As one of the last “steam budgeters”, Dave was asked by the Federation Office to put together some kind of record of the earliest days of this remarkable movement of voluntary community service. That he was able to achieve this in 2015 is all the more important now that the Federation itself is moving on.

A Small Qango, the story of the Home Budgeting Advisory Committee to the Minister of Social Welfare, 1977-1987.  Dave served on this Committee for its full ten years, eventually becoming its Chair. It was the first attempt to direct public funding towards voluntary family budgeting groups. In charted new paths for a Quasi Autonomous Governmental Organisation.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

End-of-Life Choice and end of Voluntary Euthanasia Society

A quick AGM yesterday disposed of the name with which most of us have been a little uncomfortable for some time. The word "euthanasia" seems to be a turn-off for a lot of people. So, what used to be the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand is now to be known as End-of-Life Choice. With hyphens.
The Committee is the same, the objective is the same, but we have chosen to eliminate an unsatisfactory expression.
Ironically the guest speaker in the afternoon public session. Dr Jan Bernheim, used the word "euthanasia" liberally and without qualification. But his fascinating talk made it clear that Belgium has moved far beyond our sensitivities around the use of the word. And they have certainly moved far beyond our tentative reaching out for some new practice that will express the growing concern for suffering people to have some choice about the ending of their life.
Before 2002 Belgium did not have the highly developed hospice movement that has made such a different to the quality of death for some decades in this country. But when they did address the issue of dealing with the last stages of life they had the opportunity to include a style of what they cheerfully call "euthanasia" along with a wide range of palliative care.
This linking of palliative care with doctor-assisted-death delights me. I've been feeling for some time that the body that is already dedicated to dignity in dying is the body that should embrace the opportunity to carry its objectives out to the full. Hospice, far from railing against physician-assisted-death, should be the organisation that develops a compassionate philosophy of patient choice about life's ending and introduces practical opportunities for that choice to be exercised.
When former Prime Minister John Key said "NZ doesn't need voluntary euthanasia because we have Hospice" he demonstrated a total misunderstanding of both and uttered a forgivable lie. When Hospice says NZ doesn't need any kind of doctor-assisted death, they also are fumbling with the truth. Worse, they are denying their organisation the opportunity to take a great step forward in their own mission of improving the ending of our lives.

Friday, June 16, 2017


I see the Interchurch Bioethics Committee is "disappointed" that Seymour's End of Life Choice bill has popped up in the Parliamentary ballot box. Well, I don't share their disappointment - I am overjoyed.
However, I appreciate those of their concerns which are based on realities. I hope, with them, that we will move through this process with dignity and precision, taking care to listen to all sides.
But to plead that the whole matter be held over indefinitely is failing to read the mood of the country. Parliament is already setting us a great example in hoping the matter will go away. Contrary to what they and the ICBC think, this matter is already an election issue and we need to make the best use of it that we can.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Another dip in the box


Another bill that has been just drawn from the Parliamentary Ballot box is also of interest to me. It's a bill that would legalise the use of medicinal marijuana... I might be glad to have access to that somewhere along the way before I decide about "medical aid in dying" (as I would like it to be called in this country).
But that's looking ahead at the moment. So far, have hardly started into the 720 doses of Panadol I was accidentally prescribed a few months ago.