This is a positive personal story about our family’s experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying in Victoria.
Our mother, Margaret, recently exercised her right to die, on her terms, at the age of 82. It was peaceful, calm, painless and dignified.
Several months since, I am still in awe at her bravery and courage and I am so pleased that she lived in a State where she had the right to choose.
Mum had declining health and mobility for several years before entering a nursing home three years ago. It had always been her biggest fear. She was in an orphanage and a boarding school for most of her young life and hence grew up institutionalised.
Having worked for years as an enrolled nurse, she made it very clear that she never wanted to live again in an institution or requiring assistance with personal care. However as she progressively lost almost all function of all her limbs due to a neurological condition, this is what happened.
At a time when aged care services in Australia are under review, my sister, brother and I fought hard to ensure that Mum was well cared for in an understaffed and underfunded care home sector. But Mum was miserable. All joy and independence was gone for her and despite our best efforts, she was not always well looked after. This resulted in a great deal of stress for Mum and the rest of the family who tried to deal with her distress
In November last year, after many months expressing her wish to die she broached the subject of assisted dying with her GP who started the process to determine if she was eligible.
The initial part of the process moved swiftly and she was appointed a wonderful coordinator who helped us all through the paperwork and procedures. After several delays due to Christmas holidays, annual leave of staff and waiting for appointments, Mum was finally approved in March 2020. At the time the process seemed to take forever, but in reality it was only 4 months from the start and only 3 weeks from her final consultant appointment.
She never wavered in her decision - no second thoughts, just a dogged determination to exercise her right to die on her own terms.
The alternative for Mum was to progressively lose more of her speech, her ability to swallow, to be totally dependent for all daily living activities, and eventually die of aspiration pneumonia.
Instead, she died quietly and peacefully with her family around her. We all deserve the right to choose.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the Health Professionals who have chosen to be involved in the VAD program and enable those who are eligible, to die in a dignified way.
Having gone through this experience together, I am an unreserved advocate for Voluntary Assisted Dying.
- Lisa Hogg, Switzerland, July 2020