Jenny Nicholls writes:
When friends popped in to see my Uncle Geoff one Friday in late March, he seemed happier than he had been in months.
“Lucky you didn’t come tomorrow!” he said.
Geoff did not expect to be home on Saturday afternoon. Not in the usual sense, anyway.
“I’m doing a runner,” as he told me. “I’m off.”
Uncle Geoff had terminal cancer, and was, to his friends’ and family’s grief, eligible for “assisted dying services” after two attempts at chemo. His life, the family say, might have been saved by a colonoscopy. …
It had been just 19 days since the family’s first phone call to the Ministry of Health’s 0800 ‘Assisted Dying’ number. (Uncle Geoff joked to me that “they get a lot of tyre-kickers”.)
“Although, obviously, we would have liked Dad to live much longer, I thought the whole process was wonderful,” Ursula told me. “[The medical staff we spoke to] were amazing – so respectful and polite.”
Her father’s decision to use the service, she says, was not made because of problems with his palliative care, which the family was ‘mostly happy’ with. He hated being in hospital; and, having been fit and powerful all his life, he hated not being able to shower himself.
“We all had some really great quality time,” Ursula said. “We knew when he was going, so we were able to say goodbye to him, and tell him that we loved him.”
Isn’t that a much more humane way for Geoff to die. The euthanasia law meant he had a choice, and could exercise it.
For those interested, in the four and a half months to 31 March there were:
- 206 applications started for assisted dying
- 66 assisted deaths
- 59 applications still in progress
- 40 deemed ineligible
- 30 died before the process was complete
- 11 withdrew
It is good to see some people are being deemed ineligible – that shows those involved are not just rubber stamping (not that I thought they would). Also good to see that some withdrew – this is an important feature – you can change your mind at any time.