A Controversial question.

By Frances Denz MNZM

I am going to be really controversial and ask why people who are dying of cancer think they should have the right to extend their life by six months or a year so they “can watch their children grow up a bit more”.

We have listened to the heart-rending stories in parliament and outside of people who have watched their family members or close friends die horrible painful deaths.  They are pleading for the opportunity for the dying to have a choice to die when living becomes too hard.

I wonder how many of those who still cry at the painful death of their loved ones would have wanted that death delayed by the application of very expensive drugs.  Were they the children for whom the parent wanted to live to watch them grow up? 

I find that much of this discussion about Pharmac and the availability of cancer drugs is based on the self -interest of the dying person, not the best interest of the children. Extending life is not always the right thing to do for the family.  Just as being euthanized is not always the best option either.

But the parent cannot ask their children if they want them to live longer, to be there for their birthday, their graduation or whatever, as the child would of course say they want them to stay with them.  But the long term damage those extra months may make on the children, partners and family will be extreme.

My father died of cancer. The regret I have is that as a young nurse at the time, I walked into his ward just as he was choking to death and when I pressed the panic button everyone came running.  They resuscitated him and he lasted another couple of months of hell.  I put him through that hell.  Nowadays I would sit quietly with him and let him go to his death with my love.

David Kirby on his deathbed, Ohio, 1990.
David Kirby on his deathbed, Ohio, 1990.

Death is a right, and living is a bonus!  But living for a few more weeks or months should not be at the expense of the healthy development and growth of the children. People do recover from grief which is a natural emotion and is a process.  Interfering with that process is where the damage can be done.