My way - Laraine Blackson
Suffering from cancer and COPD, Laraine Blackson was determined her life would end on her own terms. She chose voluntary assisted dying at her home in Victoria at 2pm on Saturday 17 December 2022, “because that’s the time the siren blows for the football”.
Laraine Blackson self-administered the VAD substance at her home in Glen Waverley.
By her side were her cousins Fran, Fran’s brother and his wife, and Laraine’s godson Grant, who had been her main carer over many years.
Sitting in her favourite chair in her loungeroom, “where she ran everything from her iPad. Cape Canaveral, as we called it”, Fran said Laraine was proud and in charge until the end. She knew exactly how her life must end and she’d had no second thoughts.
Laraine had said: “If there was a glimmer or possibility to survive my illness and live I would. I love life. I love people. But this is not living.
“You must allow the personal privilege of dying with dignity. Where I am at now is not dignified. It is pure pain and suffering.
I don’t want to be like a plant, shoved in the corner, fed and watered and forgotten about.”
As her cancer and COPD worsened, the VAD substance in Laraine’s cupboard brought peace of mind. “My biggest fear is choking to death – that’s terrifying. VAD has allowed me to avoid that at all costs," she said.
There were fears that, when the time came, her struggle to breathe would mean she’d be unable to swallow the mixture. Fran said the practice run with a substitute liquid had put those fears to rest, but not the worry about its taste. The pharmacists had said it would taste horrible, so Laraine had a passionfruit drink ready as a chaser.
“Laraine was calm but the rest of us were very nervous. We said our goodbyes and I had my arm around her,” Fran said.
Laraine swallowed the mixture in one gulp. “She said, ‘It doesn’t taste that bad. It’s just a medicine that’s going to make me better.’ They were her last words.”
She was unconscious within 10 seconds and then Grant carried her to her bed. The doctor declared her death 15 minutes later. “That’s how I’d want to go, that’s for sure,” Fran said.
“It takes a lot of courage to just say ‘right, this is it. I’m going’. She was so brave and she just made it so easy because of her attitude. If she had not had the choice of VAD it would have been bloody dreadful.
When I look at these photos, I see a life well lived. And such a strong woman.
"But mainly, I just see my cuz. I love those photos because of the eyes. I see a person who is ready to go. That glisten in the eyes says ‘I’m done. I’ve done everything I can do’.”
Fran said Laraine “was always a bit of a control freak”, and had planned her death to the smallest detail. “She always knew exactly what she wanted. She planned her funeral, including the colour of her coffin (white) and the flowers (yellow). She even wrote her own eulogy.”
Her final request? “When I’m gone, please don’t put the gold cups in the dishwasher.”
Visit VAD In Your State to learn more about Australia's voluntary assisted dying laws