Based on the success of our special in-depth feature series on death and dying in New Zealand, Health Central is taking the next step: taking debate off the page and into live debate with our first Health Central ChalkTalks panel discussion on the End of Life Choice Bill.

The End of Life Choice bill is currently before New Zealand Parliament. It seeks to give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.

This controversial bill has received both strong support and opposition. As the Select Committee prepare to report back in April, our panel will meet to discuss some of the implications of this legislation for New Zealanders.

A big topic requires a strong panel, so after much shuffling and changes, we feel confident we have confirmed an amazing line-up of panellists who will bring a range of different views and contexts to the table.

ACT Leader David Seymour and Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English are well placed to deliver political perspectives on the proposed legislation, while visiting Canadian palliative care specialist Dr Leonie Herx will be able to look at the issues from a clinical standpoint as well as offer some experience with how similar legislation is operating in practice overseas.

Retired intensive care medicine specialist Dr Jack Havill will also have a clinical angle to offer and Kerri Nuku of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation will bring important nursing and Māori perspectives into the discussion. As a person living with tetraplegia as a result of a car accident when she was 17, Claire Freeman’s insights into these issues from a disability angle are bound to provide food for thought.

As we compile our questions for the panel, we’d like to hear from Health Central readers: what is it you want the panel to address in their discussion. Please send your burning questions to

Health Central ChalkTalks panel discussion on the End of Life Choice Bill will be hosted at NZME Wellington (Level 3, 190 Taranaki St, Wellington) at 5.30pm. Tickets available here.


  1. I watched my mum die from bowel cancer. By the time they discovered the cancer it had invaded 5 of her major organs and was diagnosed as terminal. They offered her treatment that possibly could add 6 months or so to her life. Mum was able to, by law, choose not to take the treatment. Her reasoning was that this was not going to save her life, maybe extend it (as advised by six months or so). She reasoned that she did not want to put herself through the surgery – pain, fear. emotional trauma. That she did not want her family and friends fretting, worrying and wasting time and tears hanging around the hospital, back and forth, petrol costs, time off work, stress etc when the death sentence was already there.
    We had her for another 18months. She wanted to die at home with her children around her and we gave her exactly that. We celebrated her life, her friends came from all over to spend time with her, she was spoilt by her children and 1st grandchild, the others too small to really know. We gave back to our mum the love attention and care she gave to her kids. We dropped our lives to be there for her.

    Mum went into the “dying phase” where the amazing nurses from the Te Omanga Hospice who came daily advised us. We had to starve her to death, no food, no liquid, only lip gloss of sorts, that this was the most humane and fastest way to end her suffering in the 21st century.
    My mother suffered so very much in that last week, I can not discribe the pain on her face morphine does not mask. To hear my mother call for help with her last breaths, to attempt to console her tears is something I would never want for anyone. The emotional distress, the trauma of knowing what is happening, and that her children are having to do this cruel thing to her after all the kindness and love. The hypocracy of the system that in the end just didnt care enough to allow her to chose to opt out of the pain – pain of mind body spirit family. The awful memories of her suffering is the most inhumane cruel and vicious thing to have to be party to and unless you have had to do this, you have no idea. The system is numb to the humanity of this debate, it is considered humane to put down my cat without his choice. This is about choice about humanity, dignity, respect, love, compassion, caring. We live in a time where we can prevent this suffering, humiliation, degradation and barbaric need to observe a book – the bible which is not everyones choice of reading, not everyone is a believer in the christian/catholic religions yet we are still dictated to by this. Its time to allow dignity, respect, respect of informed choice and compassion be our guide.

    I remember many things of my mothers illness, passing and most of them are good things – THAT – the starving my mother to death as the only “humane” option causes me more pain 15 years later than even saying goodbye. I asked mum if she would like me to source an option and she said she would love me to and then forbade me outright, saying that if I got her something she would take it and that I couldnt do this for her because I would go to jail and who would look after my kids. We both knew how wrong it was. If she could have prevented that last week of her suffering she would have.


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