“Now it is my turn”

In early 2017 a terminally ill woman living in NSW wrote to Dying with Dignity to share her story to support the campaign for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill that was due to be debated in late 2017. In August 2020 we tried to contact her again, in anticipation of another debate in 2021. One of her daughters replied, informing us that her mother had passed away.

We are publishing this story with permission from her family because it demonstrates so clearly why we need the NSW Parliament to act without delay on assisted dying law reform.

“Years ago, when my brothers and I were teenagers we watched our mother die (at home) with ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, we three all inherited the BRCA2 gene and have passed it down to yet another generation.

My elder brother suffered from bladder cancer but coped for some years until contracting PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) a neurological condition. After several years, his partner realised she could no longer manage him at home and he was admitted to a nursing home. Sadly for him his mental capacity was not affected and he loathed his situation so took matters into his own hands. The decision to starve himself was terrible for everyone but he felt it was the only possible solution. He died after 17 long days.

My younger brother battled for some years with prostate cancer, and endured surgery, treatments, medications and numerous hospital stays. Then he developed breast cancer – more surgery, treatments, pain and suffering. He finally died in hospital.

Now it is my turn. Over some years, I have had two mastectomies and surgery for a tumour in what remains of my chest. Now the cancer has metastasised into my bones and will spread. I am now 85 and to add to my woes I am going blind. My quality of life has plummeted in tandem with the deterioration of my sight. I can no longer read or watch TV or pursue any of my favourite hobbies or outdoor activities.

I am fortunate to have great family support but there will come a time when I want to have control and be allowed to end my life with some dignity.

As you can see from my writing, I know about “bad deaths”. I beg anyone with any compassion to understand why dying with some dignity with assisted dying is of real importance to those of us who suffer terminal illness. I am a strong, capable woman and demand the right to die at the time and place of my choosing. I should not be forced by others to endure the indignities suffered by my brothers.”

The author and her family wish to remain anonymous.