1) It made me cry (I did know Martin Hames)
2) It persuaded me that if I was an MP, I should have voted for the Bill
Rodney’s newsletter doesn’t appear to have a web archive so I’ve included the text below – I am sure Rodney will not object. It makes me sad reading it again.
“I am having a great death Boss. I am getting to say goodbye to my friends.”
— Martin Hames
Martin Hames died 8 August last year. He was 41. He was a writer, economist and adviser to Ruth Richardson.
He worked for the ACT caucus in our first term in Parliament. He was great. He used to call me Boss. It was his way of getting me to do things. He would say, “Focus on the big picture Boss. Get stuck into government expenditure/apartheid/failing school system.” I always (well, almost always) followed Martin’s advice.
Martin was our friend. He was a brilliant, passionate, and tireless advocate of liberty. He was a powerful and lucid writer.
He helped Ruth Richardson with her 1995 book “Making A Difference”. He wrote the brilliant “Winston First”. He wrote numerous tracts for the Business Roundtable and the Education Forum and penned many speeches. He published “The Crisis In New Zealand Schools” last year. When he died he was working on “The Treaty of Waitangi”.
Martin lived alone. He owned no TV. He didn’t have a car.
Martin was diagnosed as having Huntingdon’s disease two years ago.
His mum had been diagnosed in 1979. Martin then knew that he had a fifty percent chance of having the disease himself. He chose not to marry. He chose not to have children.
His mother died a truly awful death. It took years. In the final stages of Huntingdon’s the mind loses its ability to control even the simplest physical movements — even swallowing becomes difficult and many sufferers die choking. Martin decided that wasn’t for him.
He loved life. He loved his independence. He loved his mind. He couldn’t bear the thought of going mad and losing his independence.
He put his affairs in order. He paid up the tax man.
We knew what he was planning. But the law forbade us from helping or even knowing.
He had to do it all on his own. He bought new pyjamas. On his own, one night at home, all alone, he pinned a note to his pyjama top, “Huntingdon’s disease: Please Do Not Resuscitate”. He took a massive dose of pills.
His neighbour found him. Martin came to in Wellington Hospital. The circulation had ceased to his legs and the doctors wanted to amputate. Martin asked what would happen if they didn’t cut his legs off. “You will die”. “Good,” replied Martin, “I have Huntingdon’s disease”.
The doctors and nurses understood. They wheeled him into a room in intensive care. They gave him pain relief. They looked after him. They were truly marvellous.
His friends and family gathered. His characteristic shyness was gone. He was dying. His usual agonising self-consciousness was gone. Why bother. It was to be his last day on this earth.
And he was getting to see his friends, family and colleagues one last time. He was getting to say goodbye. He was relaxed and talkative. He loved seeing us all.
He was happy. He was brave.
He made us brave. He made us happy.
His friends became all close friends in that one day.
Ruth Richardson shed a tear. “See,” said Martin, “I always knew you were a big softy.”
It was hard saying goodbye. We said silly things. A close friend gave Martin a kiss and said, “See you around, Martin.” Martin replied, “Maybe, it’s taking me longer to die than they thought”.
Martin Hames died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of the next morning. His dad was there. He died happy and he died content.
I voted for Peter Brown’s “Death with Dignity” Bill.
I believe Martin had every right to take his own life.
I believe too that he had every right to ask for help. He shouldn’t have had to face the prospect of dying all alone in his new pyjamas. He should have been able to have his friends, family and colleagues with him as of right.
Peter Brown’s “Death with Dignity” Bill would have allowed Martin to plan his death better. He would not have needed to rush to it.
His fear was that he would slip into madness or lose control before he killed himself and be penalised to years of suffering that would be hateful to him.
We will never know. Martin could have had another ten years in him. He could have had another ten years or more of life. But he was forced to take his own life – all alone – and to do so earlier rather than later.
I voted for Peter Brown’s Bill. I did so on principle. And I did so for Martin. It was his dying wish.
We joked. And then he was serious. He said if I wanted to do something in his memory it would be to change our law so that no one else had to go through what he had had to go through. He said, “Boss, change it, change it for all the others.”
I looked into his eyes that last time and said I would. I told him I would do my very best.
I did my best Martin. It wasn’t enough. I promise you I will try again.
HideSight is a regular column from Rodney Hide MP sent from his Epsom office. To subscribe to HideSight visit http://rodneyhide.com