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Marie's husband, Rod

23 September, 2019

My partner, Rod*, of 20 years lost not only his life in a great deal of suffering but also lost control over his possessions in his last weeks.

Rod had survived bowel cancer and a stroke but his heart was weak, he had a pacemaker, he lost a lot of weight without explanation and he had a build-up of fluid on his lungs that made it difficult to breathe for his last two years.

He essentially slowly drowned for the final five weeks of his life, in a South West hospital, aged 86.

Many times he asked me to access Nembutal to end his life peacefully – those conversations started once the “drowning” sensation set in.

A few weeks before he passed, we were sitting at the dental surgery waiting for my appointment when he said to me 'I wish I could die tomorrow'. I replied, as I often did 'Yes my darling I know you do and because that is what you wish for yourself that is what I wish for you too.'

I felt very anxious that I couldn’t help him, particularly when he would contemplate in detail various methods of suicide – he was desperate for his suffering to end. And he wanted to die at home, not in a sterile hospital bed.

I would always do my best to be a listening ear but inwardly these primal urges he had - to escape the suffering - were horrific to witness.

One of Rod’s lifelong wishes was for his body to be donated to science when he died. However, because he wasted away at the end of his days, with no cause identified for the sudden weight loss, the university could not longer accept his body. This really devastated him.

Our real names can’t be used because unfortunately the family could be quite dysfunctional - many of his end-of-life wishes were disrespected. He was in so much pain he couldn’t manage any of his affairs. Relatives moved into his house while he was in hospital.

Even in the moment of death, one of his adult children even refused to allow the nurses to “lay him out” properly by preventing them from closing his eyes and softening his mouth before rigor mortis set in.

To be in constant physical pain each and every day at the age of 86 is truly upsetting and distressing. Not only to myself personally but also to those in my family who genuinely care about me.

The memory of his suffering will never leave my mind.

My mother was in a nursing home for four years. She was constantly trying to end her life - she kept trying to get out and walk under a truck. I had to sign for her to have a tracker on her ankle so they always knew where she was. I remember desperately crying when I had to sign that form: She was 91 years of age, she had had enough, but no, she was made to suffer until the end.

What a cruel world we live in.

To WA’s politicians, I beg you to listen to the stories of these people who are suffering so much. They don’t want their lives prolonged in agony.

So please, listen to what we are all saying and allow those who choose it, to die pain-free, with dignity and peace.

Marie*, May 2018

*names have been changed

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