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Michael Walker's story

30 August, 2019

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Since then I have consulted several neurologists and other medical specialists and have spent periods in hospital after falls and infections. I have been unable to work since 2009 and my condition has worsened progressively since then.

I am 65 and suffer continually from pain, fatigue and disability. I am confined to a wheelchair. I believe that these symptoms will continue to worsen until my death several years hence — possibly in extreme circumstances such as asphyxiation. I have accepted this prospect and have no immediate intention of ending my life.

I have good practical support at home. In particular, I would like to mention the good work of the MS Society. Between medical support and social support, I am in a condition which is manageable. I hope I will be in it for another few years. I am not lying awake at night troubled by existential thoughts —you know, why me? — although I was initially.  I am in reasonable shape.

I lived and worked for many years overseas and happened to move back to Perth only a year or two before my illness manifested itself. Despite that, I have some close friends in Perth, Japan and the US and around the world and that level of support — emotional, psychological and the physical support — all that, to put it in the negative, does not leave me at present distressed.

However, having considered the issue carefully I hope the legal sanctions will be removed in WA on the self-administration of drugs such as Nembutal to avoid a prolonged, traumatic death where an adult is suffering from a terminal illness and is assessed to have a life expectancy of no more than three years.

I hear stories, sometimes horror stories, of people who have attempted to end their own life in certain extreme circumstances and it has not gone well. The end of their life has been traumatic and difficult for them and for all around.

I would not decide on what is termed an unofficial death or assisted death because of existential angst or anything like that.

However, if or when my mobility, which is limited but I manage, were to decline to the point where I were confined to a hospital bed and could not roll or manage bodily functions, for me that is one boundary condition. Another is pain. At the moment, and prospectively, I do not think that will increase terribly. But if either of those things were to change, that would help me decide to make such a decision.

Michael Walker, November 2018

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