The right to die... or live ~ Sipokai Fokazi
Cape Town - After living with terminal colon cancer for the past seven years Carol Tuck, 44, of Port Elizabeth says she has no hope of living beyond five more years.
Doctors have told her that at some point she will lose the control of her bowels and that the cancer could also spread to her brain.
Tuck, a mother of two, says that unless assisted suicide is legalised, she has no choice in how her life will end and would not be able to avoid indignity.
She fears having to die in suffering and shame “where I won’t even recognise who I am”.
Tuck, who has stage four cancer which has already spread to her liver, said that, although she is coping with the symptoms of the disease now, she will soon have to confront the reality of losing control over her own body.
“For me it is not a case of wanting to die, but I want to be given that choice of how I want to die when the time comes.
“It is not my wish to die, but whether I like it or not the fact is I am already dying. I have no choice in the matter. I have terminal cancer that cannot be cured.
“I know that I don’t have much time to live, and when the suffering and the indignity of living with this disease gets too bad, and I no longer have control over myself and don’t know who I am anymore, I would like to have that option of ending my life in dignity – for my sake and for my family’s sake,” she said.
Even though she supports palliative care to control the pain associated with cancer, she argues that palliative care won’t fix other symptoms, including uncontrolled bowel movements.
She said her two children were supportive of her decision and “respect my wishes”.
She said she was often asked why she didn’t commit suicide when she wanted to end her life. She said that not only was it illegal, but it could lead to unintended harmful consequences.
“If you take your life on your own sometimes it doesn’t work. I’ve heard of people who are now in a vegetative state because of failed suicide.
“But I know that if one is given the right lethal dose by a medical person you can die peacefully and in dignity without the suffering and indignity associated with suicide,” she said.
Although Cape Town advocate, Robin Stransham-Ford, was recently granted the right to assisted suicide by a high court, paving the way for more court applications for assisted suicide, Tuck argues that taking the legal route remains very expensive for many South Africans, including herself.
Having given up her job as a personal assistant recently she admits that she does not have the money to bring a court application.
“Legal options are quite expensive.
“Unless I go through Legal Aid, I’m in no position to go to court due to financial constraints.
“I hope that by the time I die, assisted suicide would have been legislated,” she said.