My father would have been spared a great deal of suffering

  • January 13, 2016

Submitted to the Health Select Committee by Rosie:

I wish to support the inquiry into public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable. 

I wish the committee to consider recommending a change to the existing law.

I hereby formally request that the committee recommend that Parliament grant me the legal right to medically assisted dying if I am diagnosed as terminally ill or suffering an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable and this diagnosis is supported by two qualified doctors.

I wish to state that I may choose not to exercise this right to medically assisted dying but I believe that it is an important human right to have this choice and not be forced to live longer than I would choose to because of other people’s choices and decisions.

I believe that it is inhumane to force someone to consider suicide as an option when they would prefer to die by medically assisted euthanasia.

I have personal experience of this dilemma and have faced making this very difficult decision both for myself and for family members.

In my forties I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a grade 3 tumour. I was advised that this disease carries a high risk of metastases and that I could face secondary cancers. Like most people I have a very real fear of dying painfully and I therefore researched the most efficient ways to commit suicide. Fortunately, the treatment was successful and I was never forced to make such a difficult decision. I was, however, determined that I would have the choice of how and when to die if the disease progressed and subsequent palliative care was not satisfactory.

I was in my early twenties when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the trachea. The medical professionals were wonderful but chemotherapy and radiation can only alleviate these kinds of cancer to some extent and palliative care with increasingly high doses of morphine certainly does not entirely deaden pain. My mother was in agony much of the remaining weeks of her life. We were privileged to nurse her at home and seeing her in such pain I wanted to offer to help her out of her distress. However, she was a deeply religious woman who would have refused assisted euthanasia. Nevertheless, I wish we had been offered a legal avenue so that choice was available and she could have made the decision for herself whether to endure her suffering.

I was in my early thirties when my father was diagnosed as terminally ill with prostate cancer which had spread to the bowel. Unfortunately, my stepmother was adamant that he would not be given morphine as she had heard it could shorten life. He therefore was dealing with excruciating pain with normal painkillers like digesic. I wanted to offer to help him out of his agony but was constrained by the risk to me and my young child of being found to have assisted someone dying and almost certainly facing criminal charges and prison. My father would have been spared a great deal of suffering and to this day I feel huge sadness that legal options were not available to us.

I wish to publicly commend the courage of Lecretia Seales and her family in taking such a strong personal stand on this issue. Like many people I believe that the legal ruling in her case lacked vision and compassion and I urge the members of the committee to remember that whatever their own personal ethical or religious position that there are people like me who wish to have freedom of choice in such matters. I would like them to have vision and compassion in reporting back on this inquiry.

I urge the committee to fully investigate this issue and to consider recommending making euthanasia available to those suffering terminal conditions with appropriate controls and safeguards.