I want to be able to choose.
Until, early 2016, Lynne Wannan was the Director, Office for the Community Sector, Department of Human Services Victoria. She remains on the board of a national non-profit childcare organisation.
I worked early on in a community development role and I loved it; and as I went on that journey I developed skills and had the opportunity to work at state and federal level. The Office for the Community Sector had a mission to make sure we had a strong non-government, non-profit community sector in all sorts of areas. We worked in social housing, children services, aged care, supporting volunteering, and supporting local community fundraising, so my role was to make sure the communities in Victoria were strong and had a future.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with cancer and told that I would be treated to cure. The treatment didn’t cure me and in 2014 I was told I would have a few years to live. In 2016 I was told I had about 6 months but now with a new drug I’m still here… I had a bit of time off for the more intensive treatment, then I returned to work. I kept working until it seemed that I didn’t have a lot of time left and I was thinking what was the best thing to do with the time I had left.
I strongly believe that that someone in my circumstances has a right to decide how they wish to die. It’s a personal choice.
If you’re facing, as I think I possibly I am, a really uncomfortable death, a really unpleasant end stage that may not be that long, only weeks, there is no point putting a person through that. Let alone their family.
When you are diagnosed with some kind of incurable cancer, the whole family is on that journey. My husband and children were immediately hooked into everything: the way I was treated, how well I was or wasn’t, how tired I was. You know that for them it’s a long journey, and I know they want to be there all the way through.
We’ve been through the experience of me struggling and being in pain maybe, or really uncomfortable; it’s not something I want for them, and I think it’s fairly pointless: you are going to die, you’re not going to be saved, so why not be able to end your own life before it becomes too horrible.
You absolutely know the worst thing you can do is ask your family to help end your life; it would get them in an enormous amount of trouble for the rest of their lives. I can’t imagine doing something horrible to myself… if you could have something that would put you to sleep, that would be a humane way to go. My family knows exactly what I want for my end of life, and they’d be so much happier to know I could die in a way that was good for me.
Lynne Wannan AM, July 2017