Neil Cameron: I’m voting YES in memory of my father

Neil Cameron is voting YES in memory of his father

Neil Cameron is a founding partner of Harvey Cameron in Christchurch. Watching his father die a painful death from a terminal illness has had a lasting impact on him. It’s the reason he’s voting YES in the End of Life Choice Act referendum.

My father was a larger than life human; in character and stature. In a small town, he was an entrepreneur who started his own meat processing business, was a hospital board member, fisherman with a bach at Taupo and a duck shooter with three children. He had achieved all this from very humble beginnings and through sheer hard work by the age of 43. Then it all changed.

I arrived home one day when I was 13 to be met by my uncle. He advised me that George (Dad) was in hospital and very ill with bowel cancer. He died four years later after 11 operations and repeated stays in the local and Palmerston North hospitals. His quality of life and body degraded to a point where he saw no value in remaining alive. He repeatedly asked my mother to give him an overdose of morphine, but she refused. I also vividly recall hiding all of the guns and ammunition (we had a full arsenal), so he could not find them. As a teenage boy, that leaves an indelible memory.

I watched my very bold and capable father wither away in constant, terrible pain. I also watched the huge impact it had on my mother who saw her life, which was very good, torn apart. The tables turned and I became the support, rather than Dad supporting me as a teenager. My brother and sister were at university.

I recall the last time I saw my father alive at Palmerston North hospital. He was yellow and very thin. I went to shake his hand. Being so frail and with skin like paper, I gripped his hand very gently. My handshake was met with a very stern look, a vice like grip and a comment like “don’t you ever shake someone’s hand like that. Always have a firm handshake”.

My father’s death was the most impactful event in my life. He was no angel, but no one deserved to die the way he did. He was a very proud man. Cancer stole his mana, it stole his physical presence and it left him a very unhappy and angry person, with no possible outcome other than a very painful, slow death. A death that was completely unnecessary and cruel. As we all know, people would not expect their animals to go through that; so why did my Dad have to?

David Seymour has had the courage and tenacity to drive the issue through Parliament. Good on him. Now it’s up to us to get it over the line at the End of Life Choice referendum. With a vast majority in favour for decades, I will be a very happy Kiwi if we vote YES for a compassionate law that gives terminally ill people choice and control at the end of life. By voting YES, together we can make sure others don’t have to face a situation like the one my Dad faced. He deserved better.