Peaceful death can’t be guaranteed

LETTER

Re: Open letter to Chris Penk, MP for Helensville — November 24 column.

Martin Hanson, while I do not wish a difficult death on anyone and don’t want anyone to suffer, I must disagree: There is no such thing as a human right to a peaceful death, not in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rights are enforceable. If one person has a right to something, it means it is society’s duty to ensure it happens.

It’s not possible to ensure that everyone has a peaceful death, because people can die suddenly and unexpectedly, for example, due to an accident or heart attack.

What constitutes “peaceful” is very subjective and individual. It’s also metaphysical. A peaceful death is not dependent on the absence of pain or on particular physical circumstances. A person could be in intense pain (which, by the way, is rare in the terminal phase) and still experience inner peace. The converse is also true. A person could die in physical comfort but be tortured by emotions such as regret and bitterness from unresolved issues. People bring their lives to their deaths.

A peaceful death cannot be guaranteed. It’s not possible to predict or control the actual moment of death. Even when a person ends their life by suicide the unexpected could happen.

The lethal drug cocktails used for euthanasia and assisted suicide are not foolproof either. The official reports show that there have been unforeseen and distressing complications such as uncontrollable vomiting, fits, and waking up not dead. In Oregon it has taken a person 104 hours to die after taking the drugs!

Renee Joubert

Waikato

Re: Open letter to Chris Penk, MP for Helensville — November 24 column.

Martin Hanson, while I do not wish a difficult death on anyone and don’t want anyone to suffer, I must disagree: There is no such thing as a human right to a peaceful death, not in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rights are enforceable. If one person has a right to something, it means it is society’s duty to ensure it happens.

It’s not possible to ensure that everyone has a peaceful death, because people can die suddenly and unexpectedly, for example, due to an accident or heart attack.

What constitutes “peaceful” is very subjective and individual. It’s also metaphysical. A peaceful death is not dependent on the absence of pain or on particular physical circumstances. A person could be in intense pain (which, by the way, is rare in the terminal phase) and still experience inner peace. The converse is also true. A person could die in physical comfort but be tortured by emotions such as regret and bitterness from unresolved issues. People bring their lives to their deaths.

A peaceful death cannot be guaranteed. It’s not possible to predict or control the actual moment of death. Even when a person ends their life by suicide the unexpected could happen.

The lethal drug cocktails used for euthanasia and assisted suicide are not foolproof either. The official reports show that there have been unforeseen and distressing complications such as uncontrollable vomiting, fits, and waking up not dead. In Oregon it has taken a person 104 hours to die after taking the drugs!

Renee Joubert

Waikato

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Ann David - 6 months ago
Unfortunately, those opposing assisted dying are indeed wishing a difficult death on some people, Ms Joubert. There is absolutely no doubt that some people do suffer abominably as they die; yes, even in the very best of palliative care.

By campaigning against the possibility of those people curtailing their suffering by bringing forward their death, you are in fact wishing a difficult death on them.

However . . . we shall see as the bill goes forward. 37% of doctors and 67% of nurses want assisted dying legalised because they have witnessed irreversible, uncontrollable suffering. 70% of citizens want it too.

Martin Hanson, Nelson - 6 months ago
I agree that there's no statutory right to a peaceful death for the terminally ill, but I think there should be - that's the purpose of the End of Life Choice Bill. I think most people would consider a peaceful death to be one without pain and, though palliative care no doubt is successful in most cases, about 5 percent cannot be relieved of pain.
I'm not religious, but I think I'm right in saying that the central precept of the New Testament is to "love thy neighbour as thyself", which makes the enforced suffering so incomprehensible. Future generations will be aghast at present barbarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you want the rail line to Gisborne reinstated now?