Thursday, August 21, 2014

One-sided commentary

Latest suicide statistics were released yesterday and there was commentary around similar to the following:

But the number of suicides by the elderly aged 60-plus jumped from 75 in both the previous two years to 97 in the latest year, almost equaling youth suicides in numbers.
The increase in the suicide rate per 100,000 people was muffled because of our aging population, but Judge MacLean pointed to social changes that made older people increasingly isolated.
"It's a raft of things - the loneliness of elderly people, the whole environment of rest homes, palliative care, all that sort of thing," he said.
"We see the phenomenon in Western society, unlike some societies where several generations live together - that is perhaps the traditional Maori way as well - we see that changing. You become old, you move into state-subsidised or state-funded care and you are isolated in many cases from your whanau or family, and that is part of a phenomenon of the Western way of life," he said.
"Personally from my perspective, I think that is something not particularly helpful for a sense for the elderly person that they still have a point to living, feel worthwhile, are valued."
But there is another side to the story.

Two dear friends of mine ended their lives earlier this year. They knew exactly what they were doing and why. They were always positive, engaged, curious, good-humoured and in love with each other. Their children lived within minutes and saw them frequently if not daily. They were surrounded by love and support. But they were physically ailing, feared the loss of their independence. And, I believe, the prospect of not being able to care for each other..

Yes the trend to elderly suicide is going to increase.And I am not alarmed by the prospect. Elderly eople, particularly those diagnosed with a physical or mental degenerative condition, have every right to decide to avoid a bleak future. Their lives belong to them, to choose to do with as they wish.


Mark Hubbard said...

Anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a liberatarian :) but the notion I made some time ago of party voting Labour this year is a real one, for the only reason to get Maryan Street in at 15 on the Labour list. Her euthanasia bill is hugely important, and is likely to be the only legislation over the next three years, regardless of government, that will give individuals back a basic right that is significant for every one of us.

It's so hard being a small stater, freedom loving capitalist, social liberal. We should've had this legislation years ago. Because I agree with everything you say here, but would add, due to having no civilised dying with dignity legislation, too many of these are dying in unnecessarily dreadful circumstances, by dreadful methods, and alone from their loved ones who can't be with them to avoid prosecution. That's cruel and callous, and it's every politician's fault who has got good law on the table.

Mark Hubbard said...

Whoops: that last sentence should read '... who had not got good law on the table ...'

Anonymous said...

I've had a peek inside the door of suicide and think that if you want to end your life you should do it yourself. There may be times when that's not possible but I cringe at the thought of expecting someone to put me down like Fido when I'm a burden because I'm not prepared (as opposed to being unable) to deal to myself. We know that many terminally ill people have their lives shortened now in the course of care. The convictions seem to relate to those that open their gobs about it.

I have a fear that once its legal we will see an increase in convenience killings. Some may be topped because of a tasty inheritance. Mark of all people should accept that the govt will, whatever they do, stuff it up.


Mark Hubbard said...

With the greatest of respect 9.25am, what you have described is not legal euthanasia, it's someone in pain, with only misery ahead, able to die with their loved ones - in the arms of their loved ones, so everyone has closure. Many doctors are happy to provide such a compassionate service.

The argument that doctors 'do it anyway' is a dreadful one - think about it, all the uncertainty and furtive covering up it entails. Plus the coroner is currently making moves to ensure even such merciful deaths in hospices cannot happen. Sorry for linkspamming Lindsay, but I've blogged on it here:

Quoting relevant part:

Worse, as I intimated at the start of this email, regarding the Chief Coroner's current actions, I would also point out the new death certification process he is looking for seeks to criminalise one of NZMA's chief policies provided as a sop for not allowing euthanasia, namely:

In supporting patients' right to request pain relief, the NZMA accepts that the proper provision of such relief, even when it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical.

Bit of doublespeak there, I reckon, trying to have it both ways, plus an ethical mess as it’s that rift of woolly minded nonsense anti-euthanasia advocates often give me - wink, wink, nudge, nudge, in applicable cases in the hospitals euthanasia does happen, doctors mercifully hurry some along, we just don’t know about it, so we don’t need to formalise and legalise actual euthanasia. Seriously, the NZMA needs to take a long hard look at its (anti)euthanasia policy statement: it’s negligent. Unfortunately, I believe you'll now find Judge MacLean is looking to prosecute doctors in just such circumstances of over-medication, meaning pain remediation plans will inevitably become more conservative: and thus the Association's 'out' – duplicitous as it is - for not allowing 'honest, above-board' euthanasia may soon be gone: the alternative to euthanasia may be thoroughly inadequate pain management regimes, and a higher incidence of painful, extended deaths. Will this change the NZMA's policy against euthanasia proper? Has the Association discussed with the Chief Coroner the likely cruel results of his current actions, and how they would appear to be in conflict with your policy document?

Anonymous said...

I too was stuck with the disconnect between the Liberal establishment that was decrying the rise in suicide while pushing the adoption of euthanasia. Talk about confused!!!

However, having had an elderly mother go through "the system" there is something true about the loneliness issue. "Aging in place" can easily mean "Aging trapped in your place" if you have mobility problems that means you cannot go even from one room to another.

On the other hand, lauding Maori ways needs some evidence. We keep getting told how wonder Maori whanau are as the statistics show them abusing and murdering their kids and women. I

Jigsaw said...

To have to vote Labour to help achieve one single objective is far too extreme in my opinion. Its a bit like buying a new car just because you want a cigarette lighter it has....even though everything else about it is awful...

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Jigsaw, At least Mark is thinking about policy and his priority. If only more of the population would.

(My husband assures me his relatively late model car has a cigarette lighter. I didn't think they existed any more:-))

Angry Tory said...

To have to vote Labour to help achieve one single objective is far too extreme in my opinion

Well they are still the only party with a firm policy that will cut a benefit (super). I don't even think ACT goes that far, perhaps they've signed on to Labour's policy, and they're backing all National's welfare spending.

The biggest joke this election is how National gets away with claiming to have been fiscally responsible...

Labour would have taxed more, no doubt, but there's no way Cullen would have got away with borrowing half as much as English!