Cullen said he did not want to lose his dignity as he entered his final stages and wanted the choice to be able to decide when it was right for his life to end. …
He was diagnosed in Feburary with Stage 4 small cell lung cancer and secondary cancer in the liver. While chemotherapy has “knocked back” the cancer, the 75-year-old Cullen said it will return and he will die earlier than he had expected.
Cullen said despite “excellent” palliative care in New Zealand he was concerned about dignity and control in his final days.
“Many of us with terminal illnesses think about what the last weeks or months may be like. Our health services talk us through this. Our good people in the hospice movement provide excellent end-of-life care for many. We are told our pain can be controlled to a tolerable level. This will suit many of us. But for many others, myself included, there is an overriding issue of control and dignity,” Cullen said.
He said he had carefully read the End of Life Choice Act, which the referendum seeks to make active law, and was confident the legislation was sound.
“I have carefully read the End of Life Choice Act. It provides safeguards against pressure coming on the dying person from others. Its scope is limited. It does not force any medical professional against their conscience. It respects the rights of those who find assisted euthanasia morally abhorrent,” Cullen said.
“But it offers to people like me the chance of finishing the life I have enjoyed so much in a way consistent with my moral beliefs and my sense of the dignity of human life.”
“It is not about what some rather too lightly dismiss as ‘being a burden’. I do not want my only choice being to die in a near-comatose state on morphine, which has been administered knowing it will shorten my life anyway.”
“I do not want to lose control of my bodily functions so that my dignity has disappeared with the ebbing of my life. When I reach those last stages, if that is the prospect, I want the choice to be able to decide when the time is right to complete the circle of life.”
On this occasion I am in agreement with Sir Michael.