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'Loving, calm and tranquil'

Suffering intolerably with terminal lung and bowel cancer, 78-year-old Irene Bizon was one of the first Queenslanders to use the state’s voluntary assisted dying law.

Irene Bizon, one of the first Queenslanders to use the state's voluntary assisted dying law.

Irene’s daughter Corrie Petersen, a registered nurse with extensive experience in caring for dying patients, told The Courier Mail her mother’s death was “like a breath of fresh air”.

“It was so loving, calm, tranquil, that’s how my brother and I felt,” she said.

“Mum was talking, she told a joke and closed her eyes and it was sort of like that, peacefully going off to sleep.”

As one of the first people to access voluntary assisted dying (VAD) after the law came into effect on 1 January, Irene spent four weeks consulting with doctors.

Dr Claus Bader, a palliative care specialist GP at the Townsville Hospital, was with Irene when she died on 31 January. He told The Courier Mail:

“When I arrived with the medication, it was daunting for me, especially because it was after a long weekend and I hadn’t seen her in a few days but her face was just pure happiness,” he said

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“One thing I'll never forget was even when we started giving the medication, Irene kept joking and talking to her family and laughing and kissing her son and then she just fell asleep.

“That is the last thing her family will remember, and the last thing she will remember; calm, laughter, happiness, music, love," he said.

“Being with her when she chose to take the medication, to fulfil that wish for her was without a doubt the most privileged experience I’ve ever had and one of the highlights of my whole career.

“For me VAD is not about death, it’s about an additional life choice. Irene, she symbolised it to the core.”

Irene's regular GP, Dr Michael Clements, said his experience helping Irene access the help she needed had changed his mind about assisted dying.

Irene "genuinely turned me around in the way I thought about assisted dying", he told The Courier Mail.

"She was a teacher, very smart, very in control and one of the things the cancer did to her was take away her control. VAD gave her some of that control back.

“When I think about my colleagues that are struggling, even if they are religious, it’s about taking that step in helping people in their choices instead of it just being black and white.

"One of the beauties of being a GP is we really listen and respond to our patients and as their needs change, so do we."

Read the full story in The Courier Mail


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