Dying woman faces dire choices with no change to laws

Tanya Battel, 54, from Carina on Brisbane's eastside, is part of the growing Dying with Dignity group that is trying to get an end-of-life bill before State Parliament, with Queensland the last in the country to debate the issue.

Ms Battel was first diagnosed with breast cancer 23 years ago, when her children Sam and Alana were aged two and four.

She won round one, but the cancer came back, leading to a mastectomy.

Then in 2016 Ms Battel was diagnosed with a 40-millimetre tumour in her right lung.

While Ms Battel looks fit and healthy, her body inside is riddled with cancer and she has months to live.

"I have the experience of nursing two parents through horrific deaths and now I am a cancer patient myself," she said.

"I have ridden the storm of treatments — now this is my final swan song if you like.

"I am not afraid of dying but I am worried about whittling away so there is no skin on my bones, when I am vomiting, when my children no longer recognise me, when I have lost capacity because the illness has taken over — that is not how I want my family to remember me."

Without changes to Queensland law, Ms Battel said it now was a case of "suicide or Switzerland for me and it will be one or the other".

"It is a journey you have to do by yourself as I would do nothing to implicate my family," she said.

"But then they have to live with, this is what my mother did — it is horrible."

Ms Battel said she struggled with the reality politicians had control over how she died.

Dying with Dignity held a forum at Queensland Parliament today, with all 93 sitting members invited.

The group said there was an urgent need for the state to reform euthanasia laws.

However, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wanted to see how Victoria's euthanasia laws worked before moving ahead with any inquiry or changes to Queensland law.

Ms Palaszczuk said while she was open to an inquiry on the issue, abortion law reform remained her Government's priority.

"The [euthanasia] legislation comes in place in Victoria, we resolve to look at how that legislation is implemented first, and then we will look at what actions we will take," she said.

Dying with Dignity president Jos Hall said she joined the campaign after watching her father Merv Hall die an horrific death.

"He had cancer of the liver, which had spread and he made it clear he wanted to be able to end his life," Ms Hall said.

"He did not want to continue on as he did. I will give you the gross version.

"He spent the last week of his life vomiting faeces, which was projectile, it was buckets full — it was unbelievable and atrocious."

She said her father was 67 when he finally died.

From 2019, doctor-assisted death will be legal in Victoria and an inquiry is underway through the West Australia Parliament.

"So why not Queensland?" Ms Hall asked.

"The best way to address this is through an open, all-party inquiry, and any potential reforms would ultimately be the subject of a conscience vote.

"This is an issue which affects every Queenslander, and it deserves to be heard and properly considered."

In South Australia, voluntary euthanasia was knocked back for the 15th time, two years ago.

It was also defeated in Tasmania in May 2017, after a third attempt to get it through Parliament.

Muscular dystrophy sufferer Holly Warland, 26, has battled the disease since she was 11.

She has had enough and supported voluntary-assisted dying.

"With every day I get weaker, and my autonomy, comfort, and happiness diminishes," Ms Warland said.

"I need help with everything from showering and toileting, to eating and sleeping.

"I lie in my bed all day and night, as my body is often too tired or weak to sit up.

"This isn't a pity party — it's my real life. It's not inspirational or touching — it's painful and monotonous.

"I am already bed-bound. I am a realist, I know that things will only go downhill from here and that's why I want the choice to use legal voluntary-assisted dying."

Ms Warland is too sick to attend today's forum, but her story will be heard through a video message.

Go Gentle Australia leader Andrew Denton, whose campaign slogan is "stop good people dying bad deaths" will also deliver a message via video link.

VIDEO: Andrew Denton from Go Gentle Australia (ABC News)

Former Brisbane mayor, the late Clem Jones, left a $5 million legacy to advocate for right-to-die legislation.

Clem Jones Trust chair David Muir said it was not a "government versus opposition issue".

"It is a matter of widespread community concern requiring the deepest consideration," Mr Muir said.

He said politically he had not met anyone in Queensland who had given "push back" on the issue.

"We hope this will be the tipping point," he said.

"In Queensland each week someone is taking desperate measures to kill themselves in an horrific way.

"People do not realise how desperate one can get when faced with absolute purgatory and torture.

"Clem Jones believed it was barbaric and inhuman to leave someone with a terminal illness to linger on in pain."

The group are pushing for the Victorian model to be introduced here, where dementia patients would not qualify.

Everald Compton, an elder of the Uniting Church, is also Dying for Dignity's campaign leader.

Despite his religious convictions, Mr Compton has always been in favour of voluntary-assisted dying.

"Some Christians believe that God is the only one who can decide if a person lives or dies and I have always disputed that," he said.

"I believe a Christian is a person who is not afraid of death and when the time comes, when death is the inevitable, we should not be doing all we can to fight it.

"We should be making sure it is the happiest day of our life because it is part of life and we may as well go out happy with everyone smiling."

However, Cherish Life Queensland said it was not the responsibility of a doctor to take the life of a human being.

Executive director Teeshan Johnson said it was incompatible with the injunction in the Hippocratic Oath to "first, do no harm".

"Medicine is meant to be used to promote and maintain the health and wellbeing of all in the human family," she said.

"It is morally wrong to take the life of another person.

"It is a very sad and undeniable fact that some people suffer greatly with chronic disease and terminal illnesses. However, with good palliative care, most pain can be relieved.

"We have heard unfortunate stories about painful end-of-life situations, but these rare cases should not be used to justify the introduction of state-sanctioned killing."

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-25/dying-with-dignity-forum-queensland-parliament/9894260