Uncertainty doesn't agree with me. I like to plan ahead, but there are only some things we can control. I may have five years, ten, or perhaps, twenty years to live.
I'm 45 and I have a progressive autoimmune disease called Scleroderma. It slowly damages my organs, especially my lungs. Slowly, over time, I become more out of breath with, a constant reminder and that sooner or later, my lungs will no more support life. I had a close call last year – both lungs collapsed and I was saved by extensive surgery, but there is no stopping the downward progression.
In the early years my prognosis was very poor – considered to be less than five years, so I started preparation for a very early death, but I think my nursing experience, as well as the support of family helped get me through to where I am today. Still with an uncertain prognosis and health declining, I'm stable enough to be able to tell you a little of my story and how 19 June, 2019 changes my life.
From that date, terminally ill Victorians finally have the choice at the very end of their lives to request assessment for Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
My condition is a rare autoimmune disease, which causes fibrosis and scarring of all of the connective tissues of the body including skin tendons and ligaments and all the stringy bits of us that hold us and our vital organs together.
Perhaps you can imagine what that might feel like. Hard skin that won't stretch and limits my range of movement. Severely deformed hands and toes. Hard but brittle lungs which struggle to expand and exchange gases through thickened tissues. Just going to toilet or eating causes me shortness of breath. I have a gut which doesn't absorb nutrients well and causes weight loss and malnutrition.
Ultimately, the ways I am likely to die include slow lung failure (unable to breathe), starving (unable to receive sustaining nutrition), or slow heart failure. I have significant disability and chronic pain and live with day to day help from my mother.
I also watched my father die a horrific death from brain cancer. I felt helpless watching him writhe in pain in hospital despite what was described as ‘terminal sedation’. He was never fully sedated in his last 10 to 14 days – always visibly and audibly in distress. He lost the ability to communicate several weeks before he died, lost the ability to take food or fluids for at least the last week and was not offered any nutrition, oral or intravenously. This nightmare has stayed with me.
For me, access to VAD assessment allows me to connect in a more meaningful and caring way with my own fragile, crumbling body. I’m still reminded constantly that my body is letting me down, but I know when my body is telling me that it finally can no longer support life, I will have the choice to take control and put an end to my suffering on my own terms.
This is a profound freedom of choice for a government to enable for its citizens.
Access to assessment for assisted dying, a gentle death, gives me a new peace of mind; that I won’t have to die a long slow traumatic death by slow suffocation or starvation.
I may not need to use the voluntary assisted dying medication, but just knowing it is at hand will make it easier for me to breathe with much less fear and anxiety.
If/when I am in intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved, assessed as eligible, and I have life-ending medicine nearby, I will have the comfort of control and choice over when I am ready to end my suffering.
Many people are frustrated that assisted dying laws may only be created on a state-by-state basis, not as a federal law, to allow access to the vast majority (over 80%) of Australians who support such a choice. Go Gentle Australia and other lobby groups continue to work on our behalf with all states and territories to enable choice for all.
There are a small number of lobbyists who oppose VAD. Largely religious, well financially resourced, who have the ear of the politicians who vote on these laws on YOUR behalf. Some politicians are influenced by this small but noisy group. Some politicians who purport to represent YOU may vote according to their own conscientious objections, or can feel it is electorally risky to support VAD, despite it being commonly accepted that the majority of constituents support such laws.
That’s where you and I come in. If you wish to have this choice for yourself and your family then you need to SPEAK UP and help bring some balance to the debate in each state and territory as they consider a new law.
Go Gentle Australia can help guide you on how to lobby your State MPs and your Health Minister. For the most part it is a matter of writing straightforward, concise letters.
I encourage you to sign up to the Go Gentle Australia newsletter and learn more about how you can join the fight for freedom of choice for dying Australians.
Thank you for listening to my story.
– Nia Sims, Port Melbourne, June 2019
I live in Victoria, where Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) legislation was implemented in June 2019. However, I feel that sharing my son's story is relevant and important. His story is not an isolated one and no matter what state you reside in, there are similar stories to be told.
My 25-year-old son Matthew had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy − a genetic disorder characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.
He felt he was unable to wait for the new legislation in Victoria to come into place and was uncertain if he would be able to meet the current guidelines to qualify for VAD.
So, on Monday 7th January 2019 he made the difficult decision to refuse food and water, wanting to go out on his own terms after a long and courageous battle.
We nursed him at home until he passed in our arms at 4:12am Friday 11 January 2019.
No human being should ever feel they have no other choice but to allow their body to starve and dehydrate. No parent should ever have to witness their child dying this way. Nor should any carer ever have to witness a loved one dying this way."
We treat our beloved pets with more compassion and dignity.
We must keep fighting to ensure everyone has access to voluntary assisted dying so no other person is faced with the difficult choice my son made.
I promised my son I would share his story, I would educate those around us and that I would do what I could to support VAD. The decision makers need to listen to us, we have earned that right ... our loved ones who chose this path earned that right.
My son had been bedridden for a number of years, had refused a feeding tube when he could no longer eat solid foods due to choking fears, had refused any more treatments and did not want anything to do with hospitals. In the last few months of his life he was in pain all the time despite being medicated, had lost most of the control over his bowel and bladder, had a blood clot in one leg that could have travelled to his lungs at any time. He was also severely emaciated which had started to cause issues resulting in skin breakdown. His shoulders and hips dislocated freely no matter how much care you took with moving him.
He had absolutely no quality of life and was really just existing.
It is important for me to add that my son did not commit suicide, he did not give up. He did not want to die but Duchenne was going to take his life, he just didn’t know when or how and he wanted to have control over that.
Refusing food and water was his only choice at this time. It shouldn’t have been!
We need to ensure it is not the only choice for anyone else. We must allow people the ability to choose, we must show compassion and dignity to those who would wish to avail themselves of VAD.
We must educate those who do not understand the meaning of "voluntary" − meaning if you do not support VAD, do not wish to use VAD then that is your choice. But then why should those who wish to make that choice be denied?
Thank you for taking the time to read my son's story.
− Rae Young, Stawell Victoria
On 9 July 2019, Kerry Robertson, 61, became the first Victorian to be granted a permit for assisted dying under the state’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying law.
On 15 July, she was dispensed the medication and chose to take it that same day. She died peacefully 15 minutes later.
Kerry is survived by her daughters Jacqui and Nicole, and her son. Her story is told by Nicole.
The stoic way our mum, Kerry, related to her cancer was nothing short of inspiring. She didn’t want to give it power, so it was never at the forefront of our lives; it was a dull single note that played in the background slowly growing louder in volume as time went on.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. She had a lumpectomy, some of her lymph nodes were removed and she underwent radiation and chemotherapy. The cancer was monitored by blood work which showed no evidence of her cancer being present.
In 2014, Mum noticed a sore patch on the back of her head, and had some difficulties moving her left leg. Nine months later scans showed the cancer had metastasized in her bones. It then spread to her lungs and brain. Mum endured many radiation treatments as well as a long-term Chemo plan.
During 2018 she was hospitalised twice to manage her pain, but this provided only short periods of relief. By March 2019, Mum had decided to stop all treatment; the cancer had spread to her liver and managing the side effects was making her lose quality of life.
In May, she was admitted to hospice. She suffered with pain, nausea and vomiting (she wasn’t able to keep much food down) and had lost the ability to walk unaided. Her pain medications were adjusted again with no relief. In June, she moved into a nursing home and began to decline rapidly. She lost the majority of her vision and needed assistance with all daily living tasks.
Mum was very matter-of-fact about what was happening, only filling us in on the absolute necessities even when we asked for more information. It was important to her that LIFE was the focus, not cancer.
The day the Voluntary Assisted Dying law came into effect in Victoria (19 June) Mum made her first verbal request for help to end her life and the initial assessment was completed. Two weeks later she made her second verbal request with her consulting doctor.
On 7 July, Mum made her third verbal request as well as her written request. Two days later her voluntary assisted dying permit was granted.
The last 12 months have been hard. Mum’s deterioration grew with momentum each passing week. She was a realist, she knew the end was coming, she had made peace with that fact a long time ago. She was in tremendous pain and knew that if the cancer was going to take her that it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Mum made the decision to access voluntary assisted dying well before the legislation was implemented. She started the process the day it came into effect. She was determined that it wouldn’t be the cancer that killed her. She was tired, the pain was intolerable and there was no quality of life left for her. Mum has always been brave, a real “Feel the fear then do it anyway” mentality to life; it’s the legacy she leaves with us.
We were so relieved to know that Mum would be able to have the empowered death that she wanted. We were beside her, David Bowie playing in the background, surrounded by love, with final words spoken, simple and dignified.
She left this world with courage and grace, knowing how much she is loved. To me that is the greatest part, the knowledge that we did everything we could to make her happy in life and comfortable in death.
I miss her already, I’ll miss her forever, but I know that she raised us to be resilient, to be strong and brave like her and we will live our lives to honor her.
- Nicole Robertson, Bendigo, July 2019
The first individual is a 59-year-old man. He had a wife of 38 years, survived by his children and his wife, with whom he shared close and loving relationships. He had no mental health documented, a medical history of metastatic colorectal carcinoma, multiple confirmed colorectal and liver metastases.
About two years before his death he underwent a liver resection for confirmed liver metastases and was subsequently treated with chemotherapy. He underwent 22 cycles of treatment, and unfortunately a CT scan performed not long before his death showed evidence of progressive disease with a new liver lesion, which resulted in the cessation of his trial treatment.
His GP informed the court that the cancer had now spread to his liver and his prognosis was not good. He was admitted to hospital with a fever, dry cough, ultimately he wished to go home. He would inform his son and family members he would rather take his life than live a life dying in a bed.
He was well aware of his suffering and what was ahead of him. So he would rather die than stay in a ward. Ultimately he was observed by a motorist on a major freeway in Victoria hanging from a bridge.
A note indicated his intention to take his own life.
Another case I have seen was an 82-year-old lady. She lived on her own and was survived by her children, again with whom she shared a loving lifelong relationship. Her documented medical history: hypertension, insomnia, arthritis, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, gout and on and on and on it goes. She was feeling very poorly about it and depressed about her lot.
Her vision was nearly gone. Her love of reading books, her quality of life was greatly diminished. She was described by her doctor as lonely, isolated, frustrated, impatient. Her daughter was informed by a neighbour who had told her she could not read anymore. It was the most important part of her life.
She also informed her on a number of occasions she wanted to die. She was found on the couch in her lounge room. This 82-year-old lady had a stained towel wrapped around her left hand. There was a knife on the floor in front of her, an open wound on her left wrist.
There was a white-handled knife that measured 14 centimetres on the floor beside her. In the bathroom was found two pairs of scissors, and another white-handled serrated knife, about 30 to 40 centimetres in length, was located on a table. There were traces of dried blood on all of these items.
She died of exsanguination – she bled to death.
Another, 89-year-old. Again, a man. He lived with his wife of 61 years and enjoyed a long and loving relationship with his family. He had a very lengthy medical history – no hint of mental illness.
His son stated his dad’s lucidity, memory and eyesight were failing. He could not listen to music, watch TV or read, which he was known to enjoy.
He ended up alone, grinding various tablets with either a mortar and pestle or food processor and died of drug toxicity.
Another, 75-year-old. He lived with his wife, with whom he maintained a good relationship despite their divorce. He is survived by his daughters, with whom he shared close, loving relationships. He had no documented mental health history, and again a very long, complex medical history.
Not long before his death, some years, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, treated – radical treatments – sadly without improvement and increasing pain with poor prognosis. He expressed to others his belief that his life would be so much easier if someone could help him die. He could not face his lot.
He ultimately obtained a firearm which he discharged by holding the tip of the barrel against his chest and reaching for the trigger.
He was found by family.
Finally, a 90-year-old man, survived by his family, again with whom he shared close, loving relationships. He was described as a delightful gentleman. He was extremely fit for his age and a proficient iPad user. He had no documented mental health history. A very lengthy history included back pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asbestos exposure and the like.
Not long before his death he was diagnosed with a solitary brain metastasis in a setting of metastatic melanoma. He expressed his wishes very clearly to his treating clinicians; he did not wish to have any invasive procedure done. His main priority was quality of life.
In the final four weeks of his life, his doctor explained, he remained frail. He had lost approximately 6 kilograms in the previous four weeks. He had a poor appetite. He looked malnourished and had nausea. His family stated that from about mid-December 2014 his wellbeing deteriorated.
He felt generally unwell. He was dehydrated and had diarrhoea. He was vomiting uncontrollably. He had fevers. He was wobbly on his feet, even with the assistance of walking aids. He was diagnosed with likely viral gastroenteritis and was commenced on IV fluids for rehydration therapy. He improved as a result of the rehydration therapy markedly and was discharged home to the care of his grandson in January this year.
The family explained that when he learnt of his cancer he went downhill emotionally. He was depressed and angry that there was no cure. He often told his family he would rather do something to end it straightaway and that if he could no longer drive, he might as well be dead. He mentioned a nail gun.
He was subsequently found dying with nail gun wounds to his head and to his chest. He died ultimately from the injuries sustained from the nail gun.
Coroner John Olle, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 25. By 39 she had died of secondary cancer undetected but assumed to be numerous small tumours throughout her abdomen. She exhibited ‘ascites’, the build-up of fluid between the organs in her body that could only be drained at a rate of 2 litres per week to avoid her body going into shock.
Needless to say the fluid built up faster than it could be drained. The ascites was literally crushing her organs. She blew up like a full-term pregnancy. She suffered vomiting and difficulty breathing, apart from the obvious discomfort of suddenly being in the later stages of pregnancy. Her doctor could find no chemotherapy that would make any creditable difference to her state.
She was dying. At first she refused drug treatment to ease her pain. I advised her that it would be impossible for her to be administered a lethal dose if she refused all drugs and suggested she just keep asking for more pain relief. Her new doctor, a good Catholic, believed that ‘nature should take its course’. I challenged him as to why she was being administered saline via a drip if her issue was fluid retention. The next day the drip was gone.
She hung on for eight weeks. Every time she awoke from the drugs her eyes would cast around the room and she would breathe a heavy sigh, realising she was still alive. When nurses asked would she like anything, she replied, ‘A lethal dose?’
It was akin to torture, her being kept alive. She wanted to die. She was declared incurable. Her life was pointless. She had said all of her goodbyes. Nothing could be done but she was left to suffer in the name of good medicine. She and I have always been firm supporters of euthanasia.
- Kerri Laidlaw, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
I have just turned 41. A pretty big life event for many, but in my case especially. Three years ago I was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive and invariably fatal form of brain tumour. I have been lucky to make it this far; the median survival time is 17.1 months.
The end is pretty grim when it happens. I will be victim to a creeping paralysis and increasing loss of cognitive function, until I am paralysed and delirious. There will also probably be quite a lot of pain from increased intracranial pressure. I will slip in and out of coma until I die. This process could stretch out for quite some time.
Right now life is certainly worth living. I tire easily and my cognition is not what it was, but I can enjoy life. But there is going to come a time when I am going to be paralysed and suffering and the last images my friends and family will have of me will be that, as I slowly waste away until, at last, I die.
By the stage that life is no longer worth living I will be effectively unable to do anything about it. And I most certainly could not ask anyone to assist me or I would leave them open to criminal charges. I would ask you why?
Why should any human be sentenced to such a horrible ending? Why should my friends and family go through that? And why should I? When my beloved whippet was in horrible pain due to a rare medical condition with no cure or pain relief we had the option to put her out of her misery. Why do pets get more consideration than humans?
As someone who has had their life cut in half, I beg you to do all you can to change the laws to allow me, and others like me, to die with dignity.
- Lachlan Smith, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
I am a 60-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer, Stage IV, which is a terminal illness. I have for many years believed that clear-thinking adults who are terminally ill should be legally allowed to have the help of a compassionate doctor and drugs to let them end their lives peacefully and painlessly at the time they want to.
The alternative may be weeks or months of emotional and/or physical pain and anguish. I have had a busy and fruitful life. I have a husband and two sons and the idea of them watching me slowly and painfully waste away and die because there is nothing anyone can do to avert it is emotionally excruciating, almost surreal.
It would give me enormous peace of mind to know I had some control and that I could hopefully spare them and myself a little suffering.
- Leith Richards, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
My grandfather was a proud and passionate man who really lived up to his role as the patriarch in our family. In his younger years he’d run marathons for charity, and once he set off with his dog to run the length of the North Island of New Zealand to raise funds for a needy cause. In his later years he did everything he could do to stay fit and active – you’d often find him out playing bowls, having a game of pool, or up early in the morning swimming lengths.
He loved his garden and was forever out pruning his roses and feeding the birds on his lawn. He was wise and loving, he had stories to tell and lessons to teach. My grandfather was also a big advocate for assisted dying. He himself followed cases, attended various court hearings and got involved in supporting people’s personal campaigns for medical support.
He always made it clear that he thought there was a great need for change to the law to allow medical practitioners to be able to provide support, and if need be medication, to help people who were suffering to die a good death.
My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer during his 70s, and while he fought it off for a few years, he was eventually given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. So, as the cancer took its usual toll of damage and destruction, his life became increasingly unbearable. He was in incredible pain, had become incontinent, lost his appetite and could often barely eat.
He was unable to do any of the things that he loved and valued in life and began struggling to stay awake or hold a conversation for any great length of time. He documented his failing health – ‘very hard to get up, hard to swallow, breathlessness, weak’. And later his wife would share with the police investigating that matter that he’d said ‘life is hell’, ‘this isn’t living’ and he was in total despair due to his increasing state of infirmity.
One Friday night, when he could take it no more, he ended his life. We didn’t know his plans, nobody did. Yet no-one was particularly surprised by it either. One of his sons was a GP, and as such my grandfather had to be very careful not to implicate him in any of his actions.
He decided not to stockpile any medication of any sort, or try and get hold of a barbiturate that might potentially implicate his son. So instead he was left with a much more horrific means of dying if he was to do so at a time and way of his own choosing: he cut an artery in his leg with a serrated kitchen knife.
He did it on a Friday evening so no-one would be interrupted from work the next day. He did it quietly, he did it totally alone, in his room with his foot in a bucket and a black plastic rubbish bag wrapped around it so as not to make a mess. And as he cut deep into an artery, and his life slowly bled out of him, I dread to consider the thoughts that ran through his head, the loneliness he must have felt, the emotions – perhaps of relief, perhaps of panic, perhaps of fear, undoubtedly of pain.
His wife found him the next morning; she’d been asleep in the room next door. He’d left a note: ‘I love you all more than words can say, look after one another’.
As a family we all feel incredibly frustrated that the current law dictated that he couldn’t have had the support he needed to do this in a different way. And even more so, frustrated by the fact that a law meant he didn’t have his loved ones by his side and showing all the love and support we feel for him in his final moments.
We are happy he found a release from his pain and suffering. What frustrates us is that he had to be secretive, do this by himself and in such a way as he did.
- Jess Cushing, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
On too many occasions as a Division One Registered Nurse off duty, and on duty, I have been overcome with inner distress over the prolonged inhumane, unrelieved suffering, particularly of the incurable patients known to be terminally ill and in their final stages of life.
Even more sadly, several of my friends have become such patients. One friend was diagnosed with end stages of asbestosis and was in an acute general hospital for around six weeks then transferred to a nursing home, where he died within weeks. Before he became ill he had much pride in his appearance. For the above period he suffered terribly.
He never got relief from the constant cough that sounded like he was choking, nor relief or way of removing the huge ribbons of yellow-green-brown tenacious mucus accumulating and dripping from his mouth, throat and nose, and was constantly soiling his pyjamas and bedding. He had no energy.
Continuous oxygen via nasal tubes seemed to add discomfort and annoy him with his unbearable, unrelieved, dreadful pain. Loudly he yelled out with the pain, and for staff who rarely responded to him, perhaps knowing they couldn’t help him. After being transferred to the nursing home he continued to thrash around the bed so much that his leg nearest the wall was bleeding from deep abrasions, caused by him desperately and repeatedly hitting it.
He did a lot of screaming out with the pain, and ‘can’t someone help me?’ My asking the staff made little difference. Repeatedly, when he got enough energy, he begged me to try and get the law changed to prevent others like him suffering.
Too often pain breakthrough occurs in the suffering, terminal patients already receiving analgesia. With disbelief I observed the above situations also in acute public and private hospitals, some also under palliative care, and in ‘modern’ aged-care facilities. Each friend had terminal medical conditions and was incurable.
In the care of professional medical staff they felt mostly unheard and that they didn’t matter. Perhaps unsatisfactory responses when begged through tears or pain and desperately calling out, ‘please can’t you do something for my pain?’ or ‘please end my life I can’t bear it anymore’.
Now they are all dead, but I have nightmares about their end of life tragedies.
- Nurse Flora Metcalf, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016
Margaret Maxwell was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. She researched the disease and pursued a regime of alternative medicines, hoping to not only cure herself but also provide guidance and inspiration for others. These proved unsuccessful, however, and Margaret underwent a double mastectomy.
In 2002, she was diagnosed with massive tumours and, told she had only months to live, decided to take her own life by ceasing to eat. Margaret’s husband, Alexander, persuaded her to end her starvation, but she made him promise to assist her to end her life if her health did not improve because she was terrified of becoming comatose as a result of a failed suicide attempt. Margaret’s health deteriorated, with frequent bouts of vomiting and coughing, breathlessness and insomnia. Unable to wash, dress or feed herself, she asked Alexander to help her die. He complied.
Alexander Maxwell was convicted of aiding and abetting suicide and received a wholly suspended sentence of 18 months imprisonment.
These are excerpts from the judge’s decision, delivered in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
There can be no doubt that this was a terrible time for you. Not only did you witness your wife’s physical suffering from the ravages of cancer, but also the devastating psychological effect upon her of the failure of the campaign she had waged against that illness. Nonetheless, you persevered.
Having earlier discussed voluntary euthanasia with friends, Margaret had been provided by them with a book entitled Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for Taken to Court the Dying. The method your wife chose to employ in order to bring about her death is set out in that book. It involved the use of medication to effectively drug the person wishing to commit suicide and the use of an inert gas such as helium.
The utilisation of the medication was to ensure that the ensuing death by asphyxiation was a peaceful one. You told the police that when Margaret read about the technique and realised that she would be incapable of performing the necessary acts alone, she burst into tears and stated that she would have to hold you to your promise to help.
About 1.00 p.m. you carried your wife to your van, laid her on the back seat and set out for the caravan at Phillip Island – the location that she had chosen for her death. You arrived around 3.00 p.m. And carried your wife into the caravan. At her request you crushed the tablets and dissolved them in some water. Margaret drank the mixture and then asked you to put her into bed. You put on a CD which you had both chosen and, having made her comfortable, you sat with her. After a couple of minutes Margaret fell asleep.
She was always terrified that if her attempt to end her life failed, she might be rendered comatose, so she had made you promise to follow the procedures detailed in the book Final Exit. You did so, placing the bag over her head and shoulders, securing it with a piece of sash and introducing the tube into the bag. You turned the helium on slowly and your wife went into a deeper sleep before apparently ceasing to breathe. You left the gas running for some time as she had instructed, before checking her pulse and breathing and ascertaining that she had in fact died.
In the record of interview you told the police: Her very last wish was that she wanted to lay down in nice clean pyjamas in a nice clean bed and cuddle up under the doona. So I did that and I stayed with her for a little while longer and I packed everything away and then the idea was that I would ring the funeral home and they were supposed to ring the doctor that Margaret was under down here and the death certificate would be written and then I could bury her.
Nobody was supposed to know about it and then my idea was that when I got back home and Daniel was finished with his exams, I would write a full report on it and hand it to the senior officer at Kew police station and they could do what they wanted then. It wasn’t going to matter. Daniel would have finished his exams in a couple of weeks and Margaret would be at peace.
I accept that you loved your wife intensely. You were desperately hopeful that a cure for her illness could be found. You have a history of hard work and you have been a good family man. Up until this incident you have lived an unblemished life and there is no reason to believe that you will ever again transgress the law. Further, the trauma of having initially been charged with the murder of your wife, together with the period of 26 days you have spent in custody, have constituted a measure of punishment for you.
- Alexander Maxwell, first published in The Damage Done, August 2016