The aim of the End-of-Life Choice Society of New Zealand is to change the law in this country so that it becomes legal for competent adults, experiencing irremediable suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, to receive medical assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing.Society rules »
Why we support end of life choice
Death is inescapable. Therefore, we believe that a compassionate society must accept the right of all competent adults, who are experiencing irremediable suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, to die with dignity and in peace - if that is their enduring wish. Giving people control over the manner and timing of their death will minimise their mental and physical distress and can lessen their fears. This should be a basic human right.
President: Mary Panko
Mary Panko taught in a University pharmacy department in Scotland before moving to New Zealand in 1994. She had originally qualified as a zoologist but while lecturing in Auckland she gained a PhD in education.
Mary joined the EOLC Society after the slow and painful deaths of three of her close friends when she realised that a law change was essential to prevent extended suffering. She became secretary of the Auckland branch and then joined the National Committee.
Mary and her partner Rob live in Auckland while her daughter, Sophie, and 2 grandchildren live in Sydney. She loves dogs, wildlife and travelling (especially to see more wildlife).
Immediate Past-President: Maryan Street
She was the President of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1993-95. Before becoming a Member of Parliament in 2005, Maryan was a teacher, a union official, an academic and an industrial relations practitioner. She joined KiwiRail as their Employee Relations Manager in April 2015.
Maryan also promoted her End of Life Choice Bill, developed and put into the Parliamentary ballot in the first half of 2012 but never drawn in advance of election year 2014. She has spent the last 4 years debating end of life choice issues up and down the country, even after leaving Parliament in 2014.
She is an avid reader of crime novels, loves cooking and gardening, and listens to a wide range of music. She plays clarinet and guitar but doesn’t sing so much these days!
Vice President: Linda Kennington
Linda has been a member of EOLC since 2016, and chairperson of Kapiti-Horowhenua Branch since April 2018.
Her first career was as a social worker and counsellor, specialising in youth mental health and youth suicide prevention. She now works part-time as an ESL teacher, while enjoying retirement.
Linda has always had a strong commitment towards individual self-determination. Having experienced the massive social changes of the last 60 years, she sees that our next big challenge as a society is to face up to death and dying in a responsible and compassionate way.
Too many of Linda’s family and friends have experienced anything but a gentle death. Linda is committed to enabling people to make informed choices in relation to dying, and to see those choices enshrined in law.
Secretary: Helen Cartmell
Helen Cartmell was brought up in a household where the right to choose the time of your death was often discussed. She witnessed the cruel and tortuous death of her grandmother in 1976 and upon moving to NZ, followed in her mum's (Jean) footsteps, to push for law change.
She has spent her life in education: teaching at secondary level, following by the development and management of NCEA examinations.
She lives in the Hutt Valley and has one daughter and two grandchildren all of whom are supportive of our right to end of life choice.
Newsletter editor: David Barber
Veteran journalist and foreign correspondent, David Barber has edited the Society's quarterly Newsletter and acted as media adviser since mid-2014.
He is deeply committed to a law change bringing about medical assistance in dying, having nursed his late wife through the horrors of Alzheimer's Disease.
Treasurer: Pete Cowley
Pete is involved with several other groups covering Social Justice, Spirituality and the Arts - nothing too big!!!
With an enquiring mind, a sense of fairness for everyone and the right to make our own decisions it was inevitable that he would get involved with End of Life Choice!
Membership Secretary: Ann Mace
Ann Mace joined EOLC and went onto the Wellington committee four years ago. The following year she became the secretary of the Wellington branch.
Ann is a specialist in early Literacy acquisition and is presently teaching half time. Her other passion is Argentine Tango and she spends time with her family who live close by. Ann's other interests include conservation, gardening and reading.
Auckland Rep: Jim Roskvist
Jim joined the EOLC after the experiencing the death of his mother. This event resulted in a strong commitment to choice for those who are terminally ill. He became Auckland Chairperson in 2016. He is a plumber and drainlayer, and more latterly, a tutor in these areas at one of Auckland’s polytechnics.
Jim and his wife live in Titirangi Auckland, and their three children, and now three grandchildren live nearby. He enjoys sailing, reading science fiction, travel and music (classical and jazz).
Waikato Rep: Dale Lethbridge
Dale Lethbridge spent her early years as a school dental nurse, mother and sheep farmer, then retrained in landscape design. She joined VESNZ (now EOLC) about 30 years ago. She has spent the last 20 or so years in promoting care for the environment with a voluntary organisation.
Dale believes that this legislation is imperative for the 5% of those who needlessly suffer so badly. A compassionate choice must be available to those few who know when their suffering is beyond their endurance and they need gentle release. It is the mark of an intelligent legal system that respects and honours personal choice in dying.
Bay of Plenty Rep: Esther Richards
Esther has supported the right for people to have the choice about their death for nearly 30 years after watching her stepfather die painfully from Pancreatic Cancer. A few years later she also lost her mother to a brain tumour. Fortunately, her passing was just weeks after her diagnosis, but it reinforced Esther’s opinion that individuals should have the choice to a painless end of life.
Now at 56, she has also faced a terminal cancer diagnosis and has overcome it until recently. She knows what it is like to plan for the end of one’s own life, and grieve for the life you had - as well as watching those who love you coming to terms with what was happening and grieve too. Although there have been hard and painful times in the years since 2012, her strong Christian faith and belief in God and Heaven support her.
Esther is very passionate about the right for those facing this to have a choice. To die painlessly surrounded by those they love and who love them.
Wellington Rep: Stefanie McKnight
Stef has been a member of EOLC for a few years now and is part of the Wellington Branch Committee.
End of Life Choice is incredibly important to her because Stef lost her mum to cancer and her death experience was unpleasant.
Stef’s goal with being on the National Committee is to bring the views of a young person into our society.
Kapiti/Horowhenua Rep: Olive Mitchell
Olive was educated at Palmerston North Girls High School then trained at the Wellington Teachers’ College. After teaching here for 3 years she went on her OE and taught in Australia and London.
Upon returning to NZ she took a career swerve and joined an International Cosmetic Company and became their first travelling beautician. Her area covered Whangarei to Invercargill and all stops in between!!
Olive has been involved in the Voluntary Euthanasia movement for 30 years, ever since her terminally ill mother-in-law took her own life. The thought of that sick, but brave old lady dying alone has haunted her ever since – she decided then that there has to be a better way...
Dr Libby Smales CNZM FAChPM.
Libby is a Palliative Care Physician with many years of experience working as Medical Director at Cranford Hospice in Hawkes Bay. At various times she has been President of Hospice New Zealand, President of the HB branch of the NZMA, Honorary Treasurer of the Asia Pacific Hospice Network, a Director of the Central Regional Health Authority and a member of the National Ethics Advisory Committee.
Libby found working with dying patients and their families a privilege. However, once she left Hospice, she discovered that the well managed peaceful deaths she was used to there, are not necessarily the norm in other situations. After listening to many heart-breaking stories of horrible deaths, she did her own research and motivated by what she learned, by the memories of the suffering of her husband and her father as they died, and the suicides of three dying friends, she joined EOLC.