'The sooner we have access to assisted suicide, the better'
IT'S BEEN a bad week among my circle of acquaintances, with two suffering the deaths of elderly parents under the grip of advanced dementia.
One had a massive stroke, the other a fall that broke her femur and ultimately (as is often the case) brought about a long, drawn-out death that took its toll on the living in a most unkind way.
I wrote the usual words of sympathy on cards in an attempt to lessen the blow; as the years pass, I'm getting better at that task, I find, and it's almost embarrassing how easily the right phrases come to mind.
"A relief" and "a release" seemed appropriate, followed by the assertion that those two emotions don't lessen the sadness or the grief.
One can never assume that one's own reaction to a similar loss is what others are feeling.
When my own mother died of Alzheimer's some 20 years ago, I felt nothing but relief for a long time.
The sadness had come much earlier as I watched her mind dry up and turn to dust, taking with it a lifetime of memories, joy and sadness, resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and the unrelenting and unconditional love of a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who delighted in seeing her offspring gathered around her.
Now, years later, I find I miss her more and more and there are frequent tears.
I don't know anyone who would choose the long goodbye of dementia or the pain of cancer as their preferred way of departing this earth; my mum had a terror of "losing her mind" after witnessing her own mother's incarceration in a mental health facility after a breakdown, and the thought of her distress at that fear coming to pass was awful.
And yet some still insist, through some dreadful, well-meaning, moralistic thought process that we grow through adversity, and death need not be a painful or traumatising process.
I call bulldust on that. I've seen too many friends and relatives devastated by it.
I have discussed it with my son and he is comfortable with my wishes to not have my life prolonged should I arrive at that stage; I want quality of life, not pointless longevity.
Many of us live too long thanks to science.
Legislation allowing legal euthanasia has come into effect in Victoria, but at this point in NSW, if I chose to die because my quality of life was unbearable, I would have to die alone. If my son was even present, he could be charged.
The sooner we have access to assisted suicide, the better.
If you don't want to take advantage of it, for whatever reason, don't. It's as simple as that.
But please don't tell me I need to suffer.