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.
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.
Kia ora tatou katoa!
28/101 Red Beach Rd, Red Beachn 0932
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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.