Euthanasia and the common good

Charlotte Paul

When I started thinking hard about euthanasia, I visited my friend who has a progressive illness affecting his body and mind, and who is in hospital-level care. His partner has moved into the same residence to help look after him. She responds to his suffering with love, and you can sometimes see in his eyes that he recognises this. I honour them both: his endurance and gratitude; her generosity.

But, with euthanasia in mind, I think about them both in a different way. Is his suffering unbearable? Although he wouldn’t be competent to make a request for euthanasia, should it become legal in New Zealand, their situation calls into question the value of his endurance and her generosity.

In what follows I explore my intuition that actively ending suffering by causing death undercuts the meaning of suffering.

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Song for Rosaleen: “the heartbreak that is dementia”

Sue Wootton

song for rosaleenA memoir, by definition, is composed of memories. It is almost unbearably poignant, then, that Song for Rosaleen is a memoir that exists only because of memory loss. Written by Wellington oral historian and editor Pip Desmond, it documents her mother’s slide into vascular dementia and the effects of this on the entire family.

Perhaps this sounds grim – and of course in many ways it is. But Song for Rosaleen is gripping. It is at one level a personal account, at another a meditation on memory itself, and at yet another an erudite critique of how our society treats the frail, dependent and voiceless. For this latter reason alone it should be essential reading for everyone who works in health: management, non-clinical and clinical staff alike.

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