INFO SESSION: Dying With Dignity Hervey Bay co-ordinator Phil Browne.
INFO SESSION: Dying With Dignity Hervey Bay co-ordinator Phil Browne. Alistair Brightman

Bay submissions on the fight to die with dignity

MARGARET Taylor's friend Mary died of recurring terminal bowel cancer after three months of excruciating pain then 16 days in hospital on morphine drips and pumps.

Without food and water, she died of starvation and dehydration to the point of resembling an Egyptian mummy.

At day 14, the last time Margaret saw her friend, Mary still felt the pain of an accidental touch.

The above words formed the substance of Ms Taylor's submission as one of about 850 to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into aged care, palliative care and voluntary assisted dying.

The Scarness 75-year-old has seen too many of her friends and relatives die in appalling circumstances during the past four years.

The Hervey Bay woman, who suffers a degenerative medical condition herself, simply wants the choice to end suffering.

Ms Taylor also wrote to Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington to express her strong advocacy for the cause.

"Chris also suffered for three months from aggressive metastatic prostate cancer. Unable to access timely and effective palliative care because he lived in a rural area, our family was forced to buy marijuana in a futile attempt to help him. Even in hospital at the end, his pain was not alleviated before he died," she wrote.

"Betty watched her daughter die in agony from lung cancer. She is now terrified of hospitals and compromises her own health, after having four episodes of stroke over a number of years, by refusing to get medical attention in case she has to go there herself.

"Cheryl's mother had an aggressive nasal tumour that bulged so far it pushed her eyes to the side of her head and split her forehead open. She also died in agony, her life ending only when two morphine pumps failed and her doctor was forced to give her an injection instead."

Ms Taylor believes that if we treated animals like the circumstances in which terminally ill people die everyday, we would be prosecuted for cruelty.

"In the four cases above, people I cared about were robbed of every vestige of dignity and their families traumatised by being unable to help them," she said.

"All were lucid and rational at the time of entering hospital and could have chosen to end their lives under the highly restrictive conditions proposed by Dying With Dignity Queensland and already allowed for in legislation in other Australian states and around the world.

"With an inherited neuropathic condition but in otherwise good health at age 75, I am staring at a maternal line of deaths in the mid-90s and have an outlook of increasing dosages of brain-dulling medication to control the pain.

"If in the end it becomes unbearable and I have no quality of life left, I want the choice of how and when I die because the thought of having to go through the agony I have seen is appalling."

Dying With Dignity Hervey Bay co-ordinator Phil Browne has viewed some of the many submissions written by the region's residents.

"The emails and letters sent by local residents are passionate calls for our lawmakers to legalise voluntary assisted dying, telling heart-wrenching stories of intolerable suffering experienced by their loved ones in their final days," he said. "This is an issue of love and compassion. Palliative care experts told the Victorian and WA inquiries that palliative care cannot relive all symptoms in all people.

"Plus the coroner's office from both Victoria and WA confirmed that each week approximately one resident of each state with a terminal or progressive incurable condition is committing suicide, often by horrifically desperate and violent means including hanging and self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

"People want a peaceful, dignified death without intolerable suffering. This inquiry can recommend the legislative pathway, including the necessary eligibility criteria and safeguards to ensure all Queenslanders can have a compassionate death free of suffering."

The next Hervey Bay Dying With Dignity Queensland public information session is on Friday, May 10 from 2-3pm at the Hervey Bay Library. It is free and open to everyone.

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