MY DECISION: Trish O'Sullivan has been through the horrors of breast cancer and although she's recovered, she has decided to pursue voluntary euthanasia when the time comes. Photo: Lachlan Berlin
MY DECISION: Trish O'Sullivan has been through the horrors of breast cancer and although she's recovered, she has decided to pursue voluntary euthanasia when the time comes. Photo: Lachlan Berlin

‘MY CHOICE’: Voluntary euthanasia advocates speak out

WHEN Trish O'Sullivan came face-to-face with her own mortality during a gruelling battle with breast cancer, she knew when it came down to it, she wanted to die on her own terms.

Rather than wasting away in a hospital bed or suffering from prolonged mental decline, Ms O'Sullivan wanted the option that is still outlawed by the Queensland government - to die on her own terms, without pain and with dignity.

It's the reason Ms O'Sullivan is an outspoken advocate for Dying With Dignity, a growing movement with the aim of legalising voluntary euthanasia.

"Why should the government have a say in it?" she said.

"How could they say it was wrong?"

"I've done the chemo and radiation and it's been fine for years and it left me with… well, you're never really the same person again," she said.

"I still want to die with dignity."

But that isn't an option in Australia, and hasn't been since 1997 when federal law overturned the voluntary euthanasia law that was passed in 1995 by the Northern Territory Parliament.

This, in turn, prohibited states and territories from passing any further euthanasia laws.

Ms O'Sullivan said she had heard horror stories of people suffering intense prolonged pain due to terminal illness and forced to take matters into their own hands.

In 2018, the Queensland Government launched an inquiry into aged care, palliative care and voluntary euthanasia, but the final report only briefly touched on the latter.

"The committee acknowledges the tragic plight of those suffering at the end of their lives, without quality of life, and 'wanting to go out on their own terms' who felt the only course of action available to them to end their suffering was to refuse nutrition, hydration or medical treatment," the report said.

"It considers that a patient's autonomy is paramount, and a directive made in a valid Advance Health Directive to withdraw or withhold life sustaining treatment including artificial food and hydration should not be subject to legislative restrictions."

The Queensland Government has decided not to push through any voluntary euthanasia legislation in this term, however has flagged the possibility for legislation if Labor wins the October election.

 

READ MORE: Queenslanders urged to help fast-track possible euthanasia legislation

 

COVID-19 affecting voluntary euthanasia travellers

Mundubbera local and DWD member Loris Doessel said the COVID-19 travel restrictions have made it much harder for Queenslanders to access voluntary euthanasia.

"They've done all the difficult paperwork for nothing," she said.

"It's just a choice to skip that last bit of agony.

"It's a major choice with a very difficult process to get through."

Switzerland has allowed voluntary euthanasia since 1942 and has been a popular destination for people to travel to to end life on their own terms.

Despite criticism from opposing groups, Mrs Doessel said the decision to undertake voluntary euthanasia should be up to the individual.

"It's a personal opinion, but their personal opinion should not be having so much impact on so many other people's lives," she said.

According to the ABC Vote Compass, more than 87 per cent of surveyed Australians were in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia.

She would like to see the State Government make the decision to legalise it as soon as possible.

Mrs Doessel said voluntary euthanasia gives people the opportunity to plan how they pass away and to be able to do it in a "dignified way".

"For everybody at the gate waiving goodbye it's sort of sad and sort of happy," she said.

"The emotional rollercoaster that these people and their family would have been on."

 

READ MORE: David Goodall's poignant final words

 

Fears final wishes won't be fulfilled

At 93, Dalby's Delma Browne has made the decision to undergo voluntary euthanasia when she "can't look after" herself.

"I have in the past few years have written to members of parliament; I've addressed it to whoever it may concern," she said.

"It's just a matter of what one thinks and what another thinks, I suppose."

Mrs Browne has decided on her 'death plan', she would like to pass away by herself, away from the presence of friends and family, but is concerned that her wishes will not be fulfilled due to legislation.

"You hear of 'so-and-so' died peacefully surrounded by friends, I just don't want to be surrounded by family and friends.

"I want to die by myself.

"I've written an email to say to all my grandchildren telling them how I feel.

"A lot of people don't like discuss death; death doesn't frighten me at all."

 

If you need support with mental health, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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