Michael Cullen publicly backs End of Life Choice bill

6:23 pm on 28 August 2020

Sir Michael Cullen is throwing his support behind the proposed Euthanasia law, following his terminal cancer diagnosis.

Sir Michael Cullen at the Tax Working Group announcement.

Sir Michael Cullen resigned from various roles in March, and revealed he had stage-four lung cancer. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The former Labour deputy prime minister was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and secondary cancer in the liver in February.

Sir Michael, who is 75 years old, said his cancer could not be cured.

The End of Life Choice Act will become law if more than half of voters tick 'yes' in the referendum, to be held at the general election due to be held on 17 October.

"You think about what's going to happen to you, you know there is going to be deterioration, and the last stages aren't necessarily going to be that pleasant," Sir Michael said.

He believes the law's scope is very limited and there are safeguards are in place.

"If the doctor involved has any suspicion that any pressure has come on, then the doctor must cease the process of prescribing."

He said it respected the rights of those who find assisted euthanasia morally abhorrent, "but it offers to people like me the chance of finishing the life I have enjoyed so much in a way consistent with my moral beliefs and my sense of the dignity of human life."

Sir Michael said the argument was a little like the abortion argument in that it can be banned, but people would still do it in unsafe ways.

In this case, people could commit suicide in ways that could be painful or unpleasant.

He said people who had a moral issue with the law could choose not to use it, should it become an available option.

"All I say to those people is that, I understand that, I respect your views, and all I'm asking is please respect ours."

It would give people, including himself, some control over the way they die, he said.

"Having the choice, is part of having the capacity for a more dignified death."

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