Friday, December 14, 2018

A conscience vote?

Image result for a conscience vote

It's been interesting for me to note that half a dozen NZ parliamentarians and candidates at a semi-public meeting all announced that their intention for the End of Life Choice Bill was to vote "according to the wishes of my electorate".

It was as though a "conscience" vote was something they were not prepared to make. I suggested to our local MP (who was at the time "undecided")  that I would rather have his vote "in good conscience" against the Bill than have him go into the debate still vacillating.

But, actually, I didn't think too much about the issues. A "conscience" vote is note just a vote for one's own personal opinions and beliefs. For instance, We saw many MPs vote for the First Reading of the Bill although their personal inclinations were against it. They were taking the attitude that at least the Bill deserved a thorough hearing from a competent Committee before being thrown out by Parliament. That was a responsible act and I told my MP so.

When the next Readings of the Bill come along I would like to see a few MPs paying less attention to their own views than to the good of the country as a whole. I hope that some swinging MPs and even some who have decided to oppose the Bill might, in conscience, pay enough attention to the negative aspects of end of life as it is for many people at present that they might even vote for the Bill against their personal convictions. I'd like them to say "I do not want the personal choice of a different end of life for myself" but my "conscience" tells me I should vote for the Bill to give others the choice.

So personal views and opinions are not the whole of a "conscience" vote. It must also include consideration of more issues than just personal ones. It must include the understanding that the conscience of an MP has to do with making decisions for the good of the greatest number of the population. Even against one's own personal beliefs.

When this Bill comes back to the House MPs will be free to vote according to their consciences. Hopefully, the consciences of some will remind them they are voting for the whole population, not just the promotion of their own beliefs.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Rodney Voters - Where were You?

A few months ago, New Zealanders polled about 75% in favour of a change in the law so that a suffering, dying patient could ask for medical help to shorten one's last days. By far the larger proportion of the NZ population appear to want to have personal Choice at the end.

However, when the Justice Committee of Parliament called for submissions on the End of Choice Bill that would make this possible, some 85% of "submissions" were opposed to any change in the law. Some members of the Justice Committee such as Maggie Barry believe that is the correct figure for the whole population. Again and again she has that declared 85% of NZ is against any change.
Rodney friends: did you offer your views, even to a very brief  note: "I am in favour of the proposed Bill"

When Mark Mitchell called a public meeting to debate the issues in our electorate there was an informal vote taken on the principle. The Bill was marginally defeated on the numbers attending. This has been pretty common in such meetings throughout the country.  Some politicians could take this to mean that more than half of us in their electorates do not want change!
Rodney sympathisers, how many of you were there that night? How many feel that vote was meaningful?

When I've made the fairly obvious point that the opposition by submitters and attenders did not seem to represent the mind of the community as a whole, I've been told that Parliament has to listen to the groups who make the strongest case.
Rodney voters, do you think Government should legislate mainly for the group that shouts the loudest or writes the largest number of one-line submissions?

I don't think so. I am disappointed that so many of us who would like to see a change in the present law simply did not get off our bums to prepare submissions and show an interest in meetings. We just can't be bothered.

Well, friends, we can still write and talk to our MPs. At the end of the day every MP will have to vote on this issue. As a good electorate MP ours is always open to comments from Rodney voters.

If ever there was a time to write or say something to your MP, it is now.

Mark is at:   or

The Embarrassing Church

Image result for church and state nz clipart

I see that Auckland City Council, in reviewing its property rates is moving toward extending the concessions granted to churches and other religious groups.
I've said for years that people who have chosen to build a worship building should not expect to receive rates concessions for ever. I cannot see any reason why the state should give members of a religious persuasion this special concession.
But I was clearly against the trend. The ACC has been importuned by some denominations and individuals and is apparently proposing to extend rate-free privileges to a whole range of church properties that are not used only for worship, including properties let for financial reward, for fund-raising and even, would you believe,  the residences of church ministers.
This kind of subsidy of religion by the state leaves me very uncomfortable. I hope that the shouts of glee among Methodist Treasurers will be pretty subdued. Indeed, I challenge them to put this unexpected windfall in their accounts back into increased service of the disadvantaged in our communities.

Friday, December 7, 2018

It's been interesting to me that MP Maggie Barry has come under scrutiny for alleged bullying of her staff.
When I complained about her savagely biased attitude as deputy Chair of the Government's Committee on Justice such further accusations were not in my mind. But I am impressed that others have made the link between her bias and her general attitude, notably Graham Adams in Noted a day or two ago. His full article is really worth a quick read.
On reflection it's quite easy to recognise that her impolite treatment of the two lady submitters who preceded me back in July was not merely biassed but also much stronger and more deliberate that the occasion demanded. I think it's quite likely that they both felt bullied.
Well, the Committee has finished hearing submitters and it will be interesting to see if they have learned anything that was not already reported exhaustively and recorded by its predecessor. We all know how Maggie will vote. But will the Committee stand up to her forcibly expressed opinion?
Perhaps they should invite her to have a cup of tea...

(Regular readers of my blog will recall the incident recorded at the end of my post of 29 June)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Genuine Poll

For some months I have been having a (almost) one-way correspondence with my electorate MP on how he intends to gauge the :mind of the electorate on the matter of the End of Life Choice Bill.
I have urged him to exercise a proper conscience vote (even if I don't get the answer I want) rather than to pussyfoot around with taking a snap vote at a public debate attended mainly by a few enthusiastic supporters of the Bill and a large rent-a-crowd of people press-ganged by churches and other "anti" organisations.
Mark has, of course, been heavily involved in the National Party crises of recent weeks but at last we are to sit down together on Monday. So we will spend some time on how he can reasonably detect an accurate feeling from the electorate.
In a rash moment some months ago, I offered to  pay half the cost  of a professionally organised poll of the electorate. Now, I have just heard, Minister Stuart Nash has announced just such a poll for his electorate. This is something concrete for me to put on the table on Monday. I hope that we can set up something like this and that other electorates will follow this excellent example.
It's of relevance that last night we toured down to Northcote for their debate. Only two speakers this time, but no new arguments. A show of hands showed the meeting was about 50-50. But on the voting form we at least had to say if we were in the electorate - so our votes didn't count.
I still think it would be a travesty of the democratic system of last night's vote were taken as a genuine expression of the wishes of the electorate. I hope I can persuade Mark to do something better for Rodney electorate when we talk on Monday

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The regular newsletter of End-of-Life Choice has appeared and I note some fascinating quotations:  Among them is a letter to Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse from the Chair of Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia (Australia).
Ian Wood doesn't pussyfoot around the issues. I have his permission to reproduce the EOLC quote from his letter to Bishop Prowse:"

"Evidence recently given by countless victims of Catholic paedophile priests clearly show the abyss and total lack of understanding by the Catholic Church for the suffering endured by those victims. Many of these victims went on to take their own lives in dreadful circumstances - in a cruel irony compared with the Church position on voluntary assisted dying.
I certainly do not write in the hope of changing your mind on this issue. By all means feel free to endure whatever suffering comes your way in your end of life, but I do pray and urge you not to use your position to force me and every other Australian to do the same."
Ian Wood 
National Co-ordinator, 
Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia, Australia

Ian's letter may be a model for a way for us to challenge our MPs  on the issue.
Also, in another post, 29 August I suggested that the Catholics might well be a bit reticent about volunteering their moral theology on the rest of us in the light of their current worldwide reputation in another area of moral consideration.

End-of-Life Questions

I’m not sure if I should roll up to an electorate meeting on the End of Life Choice Bill tonight — it’s not my electorate and I am already a bit cross that anti-Bill protestors attend meetings all over the place and distort the vote that is usually taken at these events.

But if I go—and can pluck up the courage!—I’d like to ask a couple of questions of each candidate:—
(I am 84, have advanced metastatic spinal compression prostate cancer. I have no other life-threatening issues but I do have a history of undiagnosed and untreated tetany spasms after one surgery. If this cancer is allowed to take its course I can expect significant paralysis, double incontinence and a prolonged, undignified, painful death, possibly without adequate relief of suffering. I don’t actually want that, so—)

1.       Are you personally satisfied with the present law that says it is not a crime if I decide to take my own life rather than let my disease take its course? Yes or No.

2.       Are you then personally comfortable with my reality that if this Bill is not put into law quite soon I may plan to end my life now while I can still manage to drive my car into a bridge abutment or can shut myself up in our garage with the engine running (oh, damn, that won’t work—our car is all-electric!) or get to town to buy a party kit and figure out how to make that do what it was never designed for?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Remembering the War or Promoting the Peace?

Bev and I went to Auckland Domain today and walked a lot of the memorial ground where the 18,000 crosses are set up. It was a sober, thoughtful time for us and for the many who were doing the same thing.
As it happened, we located the crosses for Bev's uncles, one of whom lied about his age. But both were far too young... It was a bit special to find them.
But I have been challenged today by Ian Harris's column "Faith and Reason" in the Otago Daily Times three days ago. 
"A hundred years on, it’s time to lay World War 1 to rest and focus forward on constructing the peace," suggests Ian.  "Now it is surely time to lay that war to rest and refocus our vision and our energy on the subtler challenge of building a truly just and lasting peace."
Thank you, Ian. I needed that reminder...

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Gaia - again

Image result for gaia hypothesis

I see that Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis is "in the air" again. In 1972 I themed a whole church service around what was then a relatively unknown concept that would predict the coming of the global conditions we are experiencing today. (I think I even pronounced a benediction in the name of Gaia!)

What struck me then, was that the environmental balance in the planet's atmosphere  might collapse quite suddenly. The greenhouse gasses might not gradually reduce the availability of oxygen but could overcome it all at once. Remember the Rotorua Lakes a few years ago - they didn't gradually turn foul, the whole system crashed virtually overnight.

It may be wildly optimistic that we can stand by and measure the gradual deterioration of the quality of our environment and then - when things seems to have got really serious - proceed to take steps to correct the situation. We may be headed for a sudden and catastrophic failure of the planet's vulnerable system.

Heresy in the United Church of Canada

As I write, Gretta Vosper, a minister of the United Church of Canada, is in the second day of a trial for heresy.

More than two years ago the Church found her “unsuitable” for ministry but her congregation has continued to stand steadfastly behind her ministry. Now the hierarchy is conducting a formal trial of heresy which could deny her access to all pulpits in the UCC and sister denominations. If the charge of heresy is not proved during this formal Church hearing, the denomination can then press the matter in the Civil courts. 

Those of us who have been lucky enough to hear her would say: Yes, Gretta is not at all a conventional believer; yes, she happened to be ordained at a quirky moment in the 1990s when the UCC’s ordination procedures did not require her to answer specific questions of personal belief; yes, her congregation rarely hears the name of God mentioned in worship.

But the support of her people is overwhelming and the UCC widely claims to be inclusive and flexible in matters of personal faith. Furthermore, all round the world there are individuals and groups who have been grateful for the opportunity to have their thinking stimulated by her sharp mind and engaging personality.

I have long held the view that all the signs around us are that the Creator must have a sense of humour, if often mixed in with profound sadness over the wreckage we are making of our planet.

Right now I think God must be laughing out loud. 

PS  (Next day)  God's laughter must have been short-lived because a few hours after I wrote the above, Gretta and the Church issued a joint statement that all matters of difference between them are now resolved. She will be celebrating with West Hills United Church next Sunday. 
UCC has always considered itself to accept wide divergences in belief and practice but this settlement must be surely herald a new era for the Church. Other denominations, please note.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Just the facts, Ma'am

Maggie Barry, MP, should be pleased at the misinformation shared on TV1's Breakfast Club this morning. The participants had really taken a leaf out of her book.
Otago university has just announced that 68% of NZers are in favour of some form of "euthanasia" (NOT my word!) and only 15% are opposed to it, but all the panel could do was mumble about it probably being a good idea to have the discussion.
I guess that's a start. But it had better be more informed discussion than either Barry or her stooges on TV1 have done so far.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Ca Pros Report

My latest PSA  test has shown another rise to 57 - about where I was in June last year when starting Abiraterone. Disappointing but just a continuation of the overall trend for fifteen years... At least a Testosterone test showed almost unmeasurable levels - well, I could have told them that...
Strangely, my balance, vertigo and unsteady walking have improved a lot in the last month or so. We think they've been caused by the inner ear problems being spasmodic rather than chronic. (These kinds of problems could even have been kicked off by our flight to Christchurch for family visits last month when I had a particularly unsteady period including couple of spectacular falls).
So we keep on learning and life continues on its cheerful and fascinating way. I told my GP the other day that this month I have felt better than any time in the last couple of years...  So, all good.

In Mid-October we reported again to Medical Oncology and they have approved my continuing on Abiraterone and other assorted chemistry. A slight rise in PSA to 37 is not worrying them. There's a new wonder drug out now but it's not on the free list and I wasn't invited to ante up for it myself.
I'm going to see my GP regarding my balance and the occasional fall. But is it caused by the disease, the medication or just old age? And who knew after fifteen years on Zoladex I should expect some loss of muscle tone - noticeable when I lifted up one of the GG children last month...?  All going pretty well, then...

For the first time in more than a year my PSA is back down around 25. My Doctor said, "Don't think about it, just be grateful for it". And I am. But perhaps the combined assault of Abiraterone and the half dozen bursts of radiation therapy at the end of June have at last produced a more modest PSA than we've seen since mid last year. In a month when my one-year licence for ABR is coming up for review that's pretty encouraging.

However, side effects of the hefty medications I am on include a lot of balance problems and I have taken the odd tumble and a lot of near-falls. But all in all, my quality of life seems pretty good compared with the alternative so there's much to be thankful for. And there's still some work to be done in advocating for personal choice at my end of life. Now there's something to live for !

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Good news and bad

A couple of weeks away with Family Time from Ashburton, Wellington, Palmerston North, Tauranga and we came home to some demanding deadlines and a couple of bits of interesting news.
The first item was that an interview that I did some weeks ago become part of an open public challenge to Maggie Barry concerning her bias on the Justice Committee. I missed it on Stuff but our local paper while we were away gave a very full report - including Maggie's infamous invitation for me to "have a cup of tea" instead of listening to serious questions on my submission to the Committee in June. Other instances of her bias against submitters in favour of the Bill in various venues were reported including a moment I saw in which Maggie left the table to make herself a cup of tea while a submitter (in favour!) was presenting to her.
However, the Chairman's full reply was also published, claiming that all his members put aside their personal opinions when hearing submitters and no action is proposed. So the matter is going to go no further. But Maggie has heard what people think about her attitude.
The other bit of news was that the Presbyterian Assembly voted against supporting the End of Life Choice Bill. This should be no surprise since conservative theological thinking and Presbyterianism go pretty much hand in hand these days. The Methodist Church Conference appears to have not even debated the matter in the midst of what one friend described as a "shambles" of cultural celebrations. If the Methodists had voted, I'd have put my money on another vote Against. The fire of social justice burns faintly in Methodism these days, so perhaps it was a good thing that there was no vote.
The debate must go on. But it is going to need a lot more commitment from the general public before our Parliamentarians finalise their personal views and vote next year.

More video clips

An On demand TV programme called Re: has done some short pieces on death and dying recently. This is one that I was interviewed for last week. It's on Facebook and has had over 6000 Views...

A slightly longer version - the "Director's Cut" - is here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Thank you, Philip!

What a great piece by Philip Patston on the yestodignity website!

There's been quite a lot of talk from the nay-sayers that the Bill does not take enough account of people with disabilities. 

Philip's testimony is concise and personal:  "As a disabled person myself I want the choice, if I’m in unbearable pain or suffering in my life, to end it in a way and at the time that I choose. I think it’s really important my voice and the voice of other disabled people, who aren’t afraid of the End Of Life Choice Bill becoming legislation, are heard as much as people who are not as supportive of the Bill."

Philip says it all. Nobody can ask for more. Nobody should have to accept less. 

We have to persuade our MPs that there is a clearly defined majority of the population who hope for something to come out of the tortuous process of legislative change to make choice possible for those who wish to have it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

More on the Orewa Meeting

Our other local paper, Hibiscus Matters, has printed a comprehensive write-up of the Orewa debate on the End of Life Choice Bill. It tells me there were 400 present, a lot more than I estimated.

It offers comments from a selection of audience members on both sides but also gave a lot of space to written quotes from myself (I didn't as much as ask a question on the night!), emphasising the usefulness of getting together and hearing others' views. It was not as pessimistic as my post of 22 August for which I am grateful. We need to keep having the debate, no matter how boring it may seem to those of us who've travelled with the issues for years.

However, the tally of only 200 votes handed in on the night is almost 50-50 on the main issue (Let's face it, the Bill would be lost on half a dozen of those votes!). But this informal tally of self-selected people cannot possibly be said to be representative of the Rodney electorate population at large. If our MP is thinking that will be good enough to "get the mind of the electorate" that would be a sad day for democracy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Moral Example?

Image result for pope in ireland
As one who for most of his working life was heavily involved in church administration of one kind and another, I feel for our sister Church Leaders who are receiving devastating publicity all around the world for past behaviour among some of their agents. With their leaders, I regret that such actions were often covered over by the religious hierarchy. Only a very authoritative regime could survive the public odium currently in the air. Many another less organised religious community has fallen over for much less public disfavour or ridicule. It must be galling to have to swallow so much humble pie at once.

Given these difficulties for the Roman Catholic community, how is it that their leaders in this country can feel they have the moral authority to project their theological and ethical views on the whole of society in another area of human behaviour?
  • It is an open secret that Catholic parishioners were instructed by the Bishops to write to both the recent Parliamentary Committees hearing submissions on End of Life issues.
  • It is also known that the bishops also urged their people not to admit to being Catholic because the Church's image in the community is not too hot (Now there's a funny thing....).
  • And it is on the public record that the current Justice Committee received around 27,000 submissions that were not much more than a name and an address and a sentence such as "I am not in favour of the End of Life Choice Bill". 
As if this attempt to manipulate the Hearings process is not enough, statistically ignorant people like MP Maggie Barry can reiterate in public again and again that this expression of opinion - devoid of any argument - means that 85% of people in New Zealand are "against the proposed Law."

How can they make such a claim? Will Parliament go along with this astonishing analysis? I'm no statistical whiz but I know that you cannot draw conclusions about the wishes of any population from a self-selected group who may have an axe to grind and want to lay their views on everyone else.

The fact is that the population has spoken. Every professionally conducted poll in this country for decades has produced a majority of respondents in favour of some form of Medical Aid in Dying. The latest was around 76% in favour.

The proposed Bill is not perfect but it is a cautious step forward. Anyone who wants to express doubts about it should read the wording before commenting. And Parliament should get on with doing the best it can for the majority. All we ask for is the one thing conservative churchmen and others are at great pains to deny us: CHOICE.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Where Does Meaning Meet?

A packed hall in Orewa last night had a really good airing of the issues around the End of Life Choice Bill. On a dirty evening there was an excellent turnout of locals - and probably a few carpet-baggers from adjacent electorates - and a top-line national panel of speakers for and against. The audience gave them frequent but not especially enthusiastic applause.
There were questions from the floor for a full hour but, as with the panel speakers, no new ground was broken. There are no new insights into the issue on either side.
I was reminded of the two housewives (this story must have come from the 1950s!) who used to argue the big issues of life across the fence between their two properties. They could never come to any agreement on whatever they discussed because they were arguing from different premisses.
That's the problem with the End of Life Choice discussion. Both sides start from totally different understandings of the meaning of life, death, compassion, and, especially, palliative care. Both even use language that is exclusive to their own side and not acceptable to the other.
It's great that there was such a good audience last night. I hope that many of them came without the strong prejudices held by some of us who have grappled with the issues for years. Perhaps last night's newbies to the discussion can make more dispassionate evaluation of the issues on both sides. If that is taking place around our community, the meeting must be considered a great success.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Justice in the Justice Committee?

A few minutes ago, Dr Jack Havill, the former President of End-of-Life Choice, when making his submission to members of the Justice Committee at a Hearing in Hamilton added these extraordinary and unconventional comments:-

"The second part of  this submission may seem very unusual.
It is a complaint about the Deputy Chair of the Justice Select Committee. I have spoken to many New Zealanders and they cannot understand why, as the Deputy Chair of the Selection Committee, hearing oral submissions on the (End of Life Choice) Bill, the Honourable Maggie Barry should show her bias so publicly and indeed spend much of her time campaigning at public meetings against medical aid in dying.
This seems to the average member of the public as totally unfair, especially as she has also been aggressive to actual submitters while giving (their) oral submission.
We do not maintain that she should not have opinions against the Bill, but we expect her to act impartially in her role as Deputy Chair, and to consider evidence which support MAID in a reasonable manner.
She has been bringing the process into dispute.
Our opinion is that she should resign from the position as Deputy Chair because she is heavily compromised."
I have already indicated in this blog that I was deeply concerned at Maggie Barry's attitude in the Hearing which I attended on 29 June. From this brief experience, and seeing her speaking publicly in opposition to the Bill I can only endorse Dr Havill's concern. 
I observed submitters in favour of the Bill being subjected to aggressive questioning, to denials that their submissions could be true, and to lectures on the other side of the issue. One submitter was subjected to just plain rudeness while making a strongly felt submission; she suddenly found that the Chair of the Day had left her seat and walked some distance away to make herself a cup of tea.
I believe the Speaker of the House has been approached about the apparent conflict of interest. I understand he was given the astonishing reply that there is no Code of Conduct set down for the conduct of Parliamentary Hearings. Members are not, apparently, even expected to maintain a show of impartiality. That is certainly how the Auckland Hearing was conducted on Friday 29 June.
I suggest that in the interest of the “fair play” that we in this country pride ourselves upon that Ms Barry either immediately recuse herself as a Hearer or else cease offering her opinions on any public stage.
She cannot have it both ways. She must choose. Either decision could be a simple action that would restore some show of integrity to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice.
And I hope that she makes this choice before speaking against the Bill at a public meeting called by our MP Mark Mitchell, to be held in Orewa on Tuesday 21st. I will be there and I hope a good crowd of fair-minded locals will turn out – on both sides of the argument – to engage together in a congenial and democratic process of exploring the issues.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Ca Pros Update

It's been a fairly frenetic few weeks for this household, but the medical report is that the substantial pains emanating from the cancer in my spine in June have been abated by five targeted bursts of radiation. Apart from (almost inevitable) tummy upsets and some unrelated pain in my left ankle I've had a really good run in the last three or four weeks.

After all the stress of making a submission to the  Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice I thought it would be easy enough to chat to the local reporter of the Rodney Times. But the whole of the front cover and two inside pages devoted to her report was a surprise. And to be told by someone I'd never met that the interview and a video involving both Bev and me had gone up on the national news carrier Stuff was much more of a surprise. Do look at it - it's Bev's first venture on public media. Both the video and the text have created a lot of interest just at the time our local MP is hosting a first public forum to debate the issues.

And guess what? The MP whose lack of impartiality I have roundly criticised is billed to speak against the Bill on which, as deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice, she is supposed to be conducting unbiased Hearings. I discussed this shameful conflict of interest with the reporter and it's going to be the subject of a further news release involving other people who were more affected than I was.

In the middle of all this stuff we've had some pleasant drives in the country and have had the Leaf's annual service for some 9000kms done for $54. And that's including a wheel rotation that I ordered. This particular EV is definitely not heavy on the family purse... and giving us a great deal of pleasure at a somewhat critical time in our lives.

Now Bev has reminded me about a bread mixture I put in the machine after breakfast and I have no idea when I started it... I'd better go and see what to make of it. It looks like this loaf may get a double rising...  And as soon as that's done we're heading out for a drive for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.  Of course, somewhere, we'll buy two coffees and share a piece of cake.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Bev and I on the End-of-Life Choice Bill

A Waikanae lady I've never met has just phoned to tell us how our piece this week had moved her to thank us and wish us well. It was especially timely as we hadn't seen it ourselves after buying copies of the Sunday Star Times!
We were sensitively interviewed by Juliet McGhie of the Rodney Times and Videographer Anna who must have shot 150 photos. Their story has been picked up by Stuff and can be seen at the link below.
We don't want to make a huge fuss but we are willing to speak out on this issue which is becoming very personal and relevant for us. But it's a little ironic that July has been so much better for me than June.
And if I get invited to have a chat with the Bishop, I'd be happy to fit it into the September trip to see all the grand- and great-grand kids.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Same old same old arguments...

As we continue in a prolonged period of waiting while the Justice Committee of Parliament hears all the same old arguments all over again, the following is a refreshing and hopeful statement.

“The laws that authorize medical aid in dying have worked exactly as intended, the evidence shows. They have benefited dying patients and their families without causing any harm to anyone.
“None of the problems that were expected by opponents have emerged. There is no
disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations, no evidence of a slippery slope.”

The writer was David C. Leven, executive director emeritus and a senior consultant to End of Life Choices New York, in a letter to the New York Times on June 20, words our MPs should bear in mind as they consider the Bill before Parliament.

This and other relevant matters are fully discussed in the current newsletter of the End-of-Life Choice Society. But also discussed are the tactics of some of the opposition such as Catholic Bishops who have "inspired fear and loathing with puerile lies that people with asthma, arthritis and gluten intolerance would be euthanized."

MP Maggie Barry is one who has swallowed this kind of line. At the recent E.O.L.C  hearing I quoted the 75-85% of kiwis who supported some change in the law and she responded with a lecture on the unreliability of national polls because the pollsters could skew them to get the results they wanted. And what about the 3% or 4% margin of error? she said. My parting shot was that a margin of error of 20% would still leave a substantial majority in favour of change. And she is co-Chair of the Justice Committee hearing submissions. When prejudice and statistical ignorance enters this kind of discussion, truth is hard to establish.

Another point in the newsletter is that the likelihood of a majority of 61 being secured by March next year is by no means assured. An analysis of the current likely voting is very interesting, but worrying. The opposition has massive organisation and funding and can be expected to mount a major PR campaign before the Parliament actually votes.

All this lends weight to a point a made in my submission (see June 19), to the effect that the lack of this kind of law change is likely to result in my taking into my own hands what is necessary to deal with unbearable and untreatable pain.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Moving along some more

Image result for psa test results

We've now done the MRI which I believe showed nothing untoward in my right ear which went into low gear when we were on a cruise last January.
We have had a thoroughly pleasant interview with our Rad/Oncologist and we have agreed to go on a short course of radiation therapy, starting this coming week. If it's no worse than 2014, I guess I will cope with it OK.
But my tests this week aren't so great. My blood sugar is right up in the diabetic range and seems not to have responded to Metformin at all. The latter, however, made a huge impression on my digestion as reported earlier. 
My PSA shows another increase to 85 - not in itself a massive rise but in the context of the most expensive drug known to Prostate Cancer patients somebody needs to ask the question I asked before we started on it: When is the cost/benefit for a man of 83 simply not justifiable?
I have been getting reasonable pain control from a careful diet of paracetamol and if the radiotherapy is effective I may not need even that for some months. But I am increasingly tired and glad to have given up some major responsibilities in recent week. 

So what is there to complain about? Only the disappointing attitude of the Hearers to submissions on the End-of-Life Choice Bill the other day. The Chair seemed to want to argue with the submitters (on our side, anyway) rather than listen to them. Not a good day for Democracy yesterday.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Submission 2018

Today 29 June 2018, Bev and I attended the hearing of the Justice Selection Committee of Parliament on the End-of-life Choice Bill. It was a very mixed experience, but, for those who are interested and who missed the live stream, this is the text of my submission.


I am David S Mullan, of Red Beach, retired Methodist Presbyter, 83. I have advanced prostate cancer. I desperately support this Bill.

1.        A Very Personal Issue

Hours after an unrelated surgery I experienced the most appalling tetany spasms. I felt as if every muscle between my shoulders and knees was tugging on the edge of the incision. I could neither move nor cry out.
I duly reported these agonising episodes to the medical staff but nobody commented.
·      If that kind of pain, even in short spasms while unconscious is what I might expect when this wretched disease overtakes me, I don’t want it.
·      If something like that is what broadcaster Andrew Denton described of his father’s death, I don’t want it.
My cancer is now compressing my spinal nerves. It is affecting my legs. I am being medicated for daily pain. I can expect to be progressively paralysed and eventually made helpless. My experience with the mysterious tetany spasms leads me to believe that I may be one of the 15% of Hospice patients whose pain is simply not able to be palliated.
I had hoped that this Bill might have become Law in time for me to choose to take an organised farewell of family and friends and depart this life in some dignity. That now seems unlikely.
I may therefore decide to become another statistic among older people who are ending our lives prematurely. We are being treated with disdain by Parliament when all we ask for is some dignity and choice.
It is ironic to me that the opponents of the Bill already have their choice. But people like myself who know they are at risk of a bad death do not have choice for a dignified end. For us, this is an issue of Human Rights.
I submit that Parliament must decide that Choice for some citizens should no longer mean No Choice for others.

2.        Religious Issues

As a Christian thinker, I am troubled that some religious people say that untreated pain is in itself a transformative experience, is “good for the soul”.
That kind of religious teaching must be for their people. To apply this principle to others in a secular and democratic society is, in my view, disrespectful—and tragically wrong. So, the attempts by some submitters to hide the identity of their church are, in my view, little short of deceitful.
I am a member of the Methodist Church which has a history of being vocal on social justice issues. But it has based its views on contemporary and well-considered theological considerations. And rather than opposing change, it has usually given a lead to the community in changes for the better. Even in my lifetime it has taken action on Pacifism, Apartheid, Prison Reform, Industrial Relations, Homosexual Law Reform and the whole range of gender and Human Rights issues right up to the acceptance of LGTB people in church leadership.
So I stand in a tradition which has tried to encourage the wider community to become more liberal rather than to scold it with antiquated theologies and some “biblical” principles that were conceived in a different world.
I speak from the experience of a working lifetime in pastoral care, social work and ministry formation. I have entered into the suffering of many who have died badly. I have worked with their pastors and their frustrations. Now I face my own journey into dark places and I sense that my country does not respect my need.
And I speak from the perspective of the Christian Jesus who ministered to the needs of the marginal people of society. He put their personal needs ahead of institutional respectability and tradition.

I submit that your Committee might also sit lightly to institutional religion and give priority to charity and compassion for all people.

Kia ora tatou katoa!
Dave Mullan
28/101 Red Beach Rd, Red Beachn 0932
+64 9 426 7562  +6421 159 2896

Although Hon Maggie Barry, as is her wont, made quite a few speeches on her own account, in the guise of asking questions of some submitters, at the end of the my submission, when I paused for questions, her first one was "Would you like a cup of tea?" I wasn't expecting that.  I must have made some impact. We then had some discussion about the merits - or otherwise - of the report of the original Committee and properly conducted opinion polls and that was that. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Real Pain After Fifteen Years

The last three weeks we've had a fairly torrid time adjusting to some real pain from my cancer. It came on quite suddenly just after having my 'flu jab. (Really? Well, that's when it came...) For a time we thought I might have strained my back but the pain quickly went to my pelvis, thigh and down my left leg. And it was continuous. Not to be compared with tetany spasms (my personal definition of the worst pain ever) but definitely very uncomfortable for sitting or lying around.

I already have an appointment for radiotherapy which may reduce the pain. So, in the interim, we embarked on a DIY programme of pain management. Not very successful, actually. I'd taken Paracetamol plenty of times before but hadn't really paid attention to exactly the conditions under which it should be taken. Voltaren also required more sophisticated administration than I allowed. And a little adventure with Metformin, to reduce the blood sugar levels that had been elevated by Abiraterone was an outstanding gastric blowout of a totally unexpected nature. Goodness knows what other interactions are going on with my other three or four meds...

We are now reading the fine print a little more carefully and trying to get all these things into a routine which doesn't allow one med to fight with the other.  With varying success, I may say. So we are looking forward to a meeting with our Radio Oncologist this week to discuss radiotherapy and then a session with my GP to get any subsequent pain into a properly managed programme.

Battle with Cancer?

Image result for prostate cancer
As my cancer is beginning to make itself known I am interested to look back fourteen or so years to something that I wrote after surgery. I think it was for my recently-expired website. The theme seems all the more relevant now that I am actually feeling pain.

A year after surgery, when it became apparent that my prostate operation had not been completely successful I was shown an article by Christopher Newell of Tasmania and Christine Newman of Rotorua. In it she insisted that she wasn’t “having a battle with cancer”, she was simply a “person who has cancer”. It was, she said, part of herself and she celebrated herself. 

Christine wrote - 
To embrace my cancer
is to take life moment by moment and to see it in all its glory.
To embrace my cancer
is to see life from a bigger perspective rather than my own little world.
To embrace my cancer is to know
            That my days are numbered,
That I had better get on with things in life that matter,
That I should view life as a treasure not to be wasted
and through all these things, to no longer fear if a tumour appears.
Embracing my cancer
for me brings freedom and acceptance, not fear and rejection.
Embracing my cancer
sees not Satan at work but a God who is in control, no matter what...

I am not quite sure about the "God in control" bit, but I still find her views extremely  helpful.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sorry, FB friends, I've had my mind of lots of other things than updating you on the End of Life Choice Meetings last weekend.

The sparsely attended National Annual Meeting did all its business fairly easily and returned the existing team for another year. President Maryan Street made sure that we didn't muck around a whole lot over the business.

But there's a sense of "Where do we go now?" with the Justice Committee being given another six months to report back to Parliament. March 2019 seems a long, long way away right now. You would have to feel that it's a deliberate strategy to dilute the debate. It certainly dilutes my chance of the Bill being passed in time for me to ask for Medical Aid in Dying if I need it.

In this awkward interim it would be easy for us to fire off a lot of publicity that got lost to sight by the time the bill is actually getting back into Parliament. But there are things that we can do with the existing internet capability and I must do some thinking about some new stuff on my own changing situation.

On the second day we attended the district Annual Meeting which was also a fairly quiet affair but featured a really interesting report by Jack Havill on recent surveys of doctors. It seems there is a substantial body of medicos who will be willing to work in Medical Aid in Dying when the Bill is eventually put into law. This gives the lie to objections that there won't be enough doctors to manage the programme.

Then yesterday I did an interview with a couple of Communications students who are doing a doco on the issue. The interviewer had really done his research (he'd already interviewed "Turkey" Collins and David Seymour) and I enjoyed the challenge.

All in all, an interesting few days with EOLC...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Moving along....

I didn't mention in my previous post that three or four weeks ago we've been aware of some back pain not related to any heavy lifting. The cancer in my spine is making itself known and lately I've had pain right through my pelvis and hip down to the bottom of my left leg. Another stage in the journey.

Paracetemol, of which I have a very large box, due to a prescription mistake some months ago, did not have the slightest effect.  So I am exploring Voltaren which actually is not used in some countries because of risks apparently not thought quite significant enough by the authorities in this country... Added to that experience is the pre-diabetes Metformin which on the first day blew the entire  contents of my digestive system down the toilet (Maybe just one a day instead of two as prescribed).

All in all I am not competing with some of the folk in our village but fourteen assorted pills a day seems quite a handful when they all have different requirements for proper management.
We now have an appointment for an MRI which will probably only confirm what we already know but may add something to medical knowledge about my ear problem. And we are going to meet the radio-oncologist to discuss some targeted radiation on my spine. Another decision that really need some careful evaluation of discomfort/benefit.

All in all, plenty to think about but it sure keeps one alive and thinking.
And, on Saturday I was astonished out of my mind to be awarded Patroller of the Year. That was a gracious and much appreciated gesture as I drop out of regular patrolling, I am hoping to keep up some contact as a non-patrolling patroller(!)

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Ca Pros Report May 2018

We rolled up at Med. Onc. with a large list of reports and queries this morning.
We had an excellent consultation and fairly easily reached agreement that—
·       Blood Pressure is excellent, better than self-checks at home
·       The Scintogram and CT Scan reports suggest intensification of existing cancer in L5/L4 rather than extension to other bone or soft structures as it appeared at first glance
·       An MRI is booked and is still needed, both for Prostate Cancer, a possible spot on my Hippocampus(?) and any possible Ca Pros link with the right ear problem
·       My levels of blood sugar now justify diabetic medication under GP, at least while on Abiraterone which is known to elevate blood sugar levels
·       Although the results from Abiraterone/Zytiga are not outstanding and even a bit disappointing, it seems to have no serious side effects and will continue for the time being
·       Recent back and leg pain is probably caused by the cancer in L4/5 and may well respond to further targeted radiation which will be put in place
·       Recent problems of balance, vertigo, etc  have no clear origin—ear, old age, medications—discuss with GP
·       Occasional problems of low mood—discuss with GP for possible adjustment of Venlafaxine, dose previously reduced for some months
·       Decision to withdraw from Village Minibus driver roster and active Community Patrol was agreed to be appropriate in the light of balance problems

Friday, May 11, 2018

It could have been worse....

So Susan Austen has been fined $7500 for importing an illegal drug. At least she was let off other charges of assisting a friend to end her own life. Susan's been a compassionate but forthright campaigner for the right to have some control over the manner of one's death in certain conditions. If they invite contributions to her fine Bev and I will be happy to send something along.
We need to support the proposed change in law so we can take back control of our own life and death at the end. At the very least the intended law would end the ridiculous 
and illegal charade that was associated with Susan's adventure...  So far, the Police and their wrongful use of a traffic control point have got off lightly!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Medical Medical

I viewed a documentary on the making of "Grey's Anatomy" a few years ago. The Director said that when they were writing the script there were many places where the script had a gap merely marked "Medical Medical". That's where they called in the advisors to script medically correct words for the procedures being shown on screen.

My life is just entering a phase of "Medical Medical". Today we reported to the ear specialist and had a fascinating time. The outcome seems to be that the almost total loss in my right ear was indeed due to the chill and infection from over-zealous airconditioning on our cruise in January. Nothing much can be done for it, Hearing aids will increase the overall level of good audio in my "good" ear but they will also amplify the unpleasant interference that still comes through the right. However, there's a device some some musicians use (Dr Bill plays the bagpipes!) that may ease this. We're going to look into that.

I also gave up about six vials of blood for three sets of tests - my bone density, my blood sugar (a bit worrying, that one) and the usual raft of items for my cancer. And about now I need to submit to the injector that inserts another dose of Zoladex into by abdomen. I have received an appointment with Nuclear Medicine for a bone scintigram and am expecting to have at least one MRI and a more or less ordinary CT scan in the coming weeks. "Medical Medical" indeed...

Somewhere in my Future Directives there is a statement that I do not wish in the last stages of my condition to participate in purely diagnostic procedures. It's interesting that a lott of this activity comes into that category. But perhaps some inconvenience on my part will contribute to some new knowledge about the development of advanced, metastatic, castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, Bev and I have some living to do and I have a Village Newsletter to publish.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Shades of "Turkey" O'Connor

I wasn't able to attend but I admired the motivation behind those who called a recent meeting to discuss the End-of-Life Choice issues. Their advertised intention was to have a balanced, dispassionate, calm discussion of the subject. What a great place to start, I thought.
However, a first-person report that came to me about the event was that the Hon Maggie Barry was leading speaker one side of the debate. She might have been a good selection as she is a member of the Justice Select Committee which has to study the David Seymour Bill for Parliament. But I am told that she used words like "killed" and "murder" in the context of the discussion. Evidently she made it abundantly clear that she, like "Turkey" O'Connor who chaired the previous Committee*, has not only made up her mind on the issue but is resolved to do battle with it in ways that, in a civilised society, should surely be called into question. My informant said the event was not a debate at all but was simply "The Maggie Barry Show".
On a Select Committee of Parliament we hope for people who have open minds and have the willingness to explore all sides of the issue without descending to manipulation of the terms and derogatory verbal abuse. I hope the Committee includes many who will reject these latter techniques for their arguments on this particular committee.
I hear that the Catholic constituency has again orchestrated a flood of submissions along the lines of their own distinctive theology and doctrine. Again, no doubt. they have been told not to mention the fact that they are Catholic; quite rightly, they fear that a maturing society may not wish to be dictated to by an ancient faith. Indeed, a lot of other churches - including my own - have failed to declare on the matter or just kicked for touch. But the principle of compassion may yet find a place in the hearts of those who make this decision for us.
Here's a funny thing; didn't Jesus talk a lot about compassion?

* Dedicated readers of my blog may recall that one of my respondents observed that asking O'Connor to chair a Committee on End of Life Choice was like asking a Turkey to convene a meeting on the future of Thanksgiving.