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Source: Aged Care Insite
Traumatised families and nurses have swamped an inquiry with accounts of harrowing deaths in a bid to convince Queensland to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws.
More than 170 submissions have so far been lodged as the state government attempts to gauge the level of public support for euthanasia.
Early results indicate a groundswell of support for change, with about 140 of the submissions urging a shift to medically-assisted dying with the right safeguards in place.
Just 40 submissions have argued against any reforms, variously describing right-to-die laws as dangerous, state-sanctioned murder and a grave violation of God’s law.
One of the most powerful submissions for change was written by Carol Cronk, who is planning to go to Switzerland to end her life and avoid the kind of deaths her parents experienced in high-dependency dementia wards.
She describes her 93-year-old mother’s death, after she suffered “unfixable” broken shoulders and ribs during a nursing home fall before she was sent to her final “death ward”.
“[She] was forced to live in this death ward in 24hr pain and intense shame, toilet issues, all in her nappy, fed like a baby and machine hoisted, naked, by strangers into a shower. Her everyday screams were for God to take her,” Cronk wrote.
“Personal experiences change our beliefs systems. I have a terminal illness, and have already contacted Dignitas Switzerland re my need to be forced into going over there, to be spared.”
Another supporter, Linda Roberts, has told the government inquiry that she almost gave in when her ailing mother begged for help to die.
Living with cancer and in terrible pain, her mum pleaded for extra doses of heavy-duty pain medication, after telling her family she’d “had enough” and urging them: ‘Please help me’.
“I was shocked that she asked this of me and it took me a period to digest what she asked me to do,” Roberts wrote.
She reached the point where she was seriously considering doing what her mother had asked.
“The only thing that prevented me from granting my mother’s wish was that I had to consider my own two children and the consequences of my actions had I gone through with this.”
One week later, her mother’s pain was no longer manageable at home, and she was put into a palliative care facility. There, Roberts said, doctors approved massive doses to her pain medication and hastened her death.
Former police officer Laurie Paul told the inquiry of attending countless suicides in his long career, but one in Townsville has stayed with him.
“We were directed to the back yard shed. There lay an elderly gentleman who had suicided – his elderly wife and family grieved for him upstairs,” he wrote.
“He had recently been advised that he had cancer and in his loving note to his wife of many years, outlined that he was of the view that he did not wish for her to suffer as he slowly died in front of her, and that she would have to nurse him in the last years of their lives.
“This was wrong and a sad indictment on our society.”
The government inquiry is broader than assisted dying. It’s also delving into the adequacy of aged care, and end-of-life and palliative care.
A large number of submissions supporting assisted dying have been lodged by nurses who work in palliative care, and say the idea that drugs can always manage pain and deal with suffering is nonsense.
“Sometimes there is never a high enough dose of medication to ease the pain,” retired nurse Jill Glover wrote.
Verena Sidler said she’d witnessed countless horrible deaths in her 30 years as a registered nurse.
“I can recall numerous patients with terminal illnesses who spent their valuable energy literally begging myself and other nurses ‘to be put out of their misery, indignation and pain’… until dying.”
When her own father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she was grateful he lived in Switzerland and used that country’s laws to end his life peacefully in his own home.
“Two weeks prior to my father’s death, I asked him what had helped him most to improve his quality of life since being diagnosed with this terminal illness and he answered, the knowledge that he did not have to die a terrible death without having any control.
“I entreat you to consider voluntary assisted dying.”
Of the 40 submissions arguing against change, many said better palliative care options would negate the need for assisted dying laws.
“What the terminally ill who are in pain want and need is proper care and pain relief, not an end to life. Theirs is a cry for help that better and proper palliative care can certainly deliver on,” Karen Mitchell wrote.
Anne Coyle warned voluntary euthanasia would lead to murder.
“It is impossible to control euthanasia once it has been legalised. All countries who have legal euthanasia have records of patients being euthanised against their will,” she said, without citing any specific examples.
Other opponents said God gave life and only he could take it away, a view shared by Donald and Glenice Larsen, who both lost their previous spouses to cancer.
“[They] were afforded the best possible palliative/end-of-life care, in as much as pain control and being made comfortable… As Christians we believe what God has told us in His Word – He is the giver of Life and we have no authority to take it away.”
Public submissions to the inquiry close on April 15.
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