In the early 90's as a headstrong twenty year old (who of course knew everything), I can remember a heated discussion I had with my mother on Euthanasia. Although not a foreign or unusual topic for some, what you might find interesting is that my mother was paralysed from the neck down and confined to her bed.
So who was for and who was against Euthanasia?
I'll get to that . . . but first I want to give you some background . . .
By the time she was twenty-six she had three daughters I was the youngest), and at the age of thirty-three she was diagnosed with M.S. Her condition deteriorated fairly rapidly. By 1985 she was confined to a wheelchair and by 1990 at the age of forty-three she was paralyzed from the neck down.
By the time my mum was forty she had lost most of her mobility, her marriage and her three daughters.
So at the age of forty, living in a flat on her own, suffering with the Australian heat and not able to access any home help she made the gut wrenching decision to leave us girls and move back to her homeland of New Zealand.
In Christchurch the M.S. Society kindly organised a flat for her, and she was able to get home help, four times a day. After five years of doing a lot of staring at walls, maths problems in her head and speed reading books when she had a carer there to turn the pages for her, she finally gained access to life changing technology.
From the confines of her bed she could now, using voice commands and a mouth control, remotely open her back door, turn on the lights, T.V., computer etc. and use an electronic page turner. She also received an electric wheelchair that she could navigate herself in using a chin control.
|Lesley E Tyzack graduation 2004|
**Photo Courtesy of Linton Photography
Back to the topic of Euthanasia . . .It was very simple in my mind as a twenty year old. Someone is dying or severely disabled then why shouldn't they have the choice to end their own life? The system wouldn't be abused because three doctors would have to sign off on it (the suggestion at that time)plus a psychological assessment of the person requesting Euthanasia.
My mum spoke of a time, a few years earlier, when she was in such severe pain she wanted to die and a doctor came to her home to give her some strong pain relief.
In my mum's own words:
“I would have been glad to die at the time, but it was not death I wanted, but relief. The desire to live returned in the same instant the pain went” - Lesley E. Tyzack
That doctor, on his next visit apologised to my mum that he hadn't been able to do more for her at the time.
In this statement he was referring to a comment she had made in the throws of pain at the last visit saying “I want to die”. She was horrified thinking “What if he had listened to me?”
My mum was also very concerned about the elderly. She thought it would be very easy for many elderly people who were terminally ill or even just incapacitated in some way, to feel guilty, feeling they were a burden on their families.
In these cases, she felt, if Euthanasia was legal they could easily decide to take this option so as not to burden their loved ones. Or even be encouraged by family members who struggled seeing someone close to them suffering, into thinking that it was the right thing to do.
Actually my mum said that people who wanted to die were depressed and that the depression is what should be treated. Help the person, not help them die.
Twenty years later I agree with my mum's views on Euthanasia completely. I look at her life and know that put in extreme circumstances people can still cope, when given positive support and the care they need. Seeing how she lived and how she pushed through many dark hours inspires me to know that I can do anything.
In a recently published report put out by the Victorian Parliament it is suggested that if legislation is passed for Euthanasia that each case would need to be approved by two or more doctors.(1)
Two or more doctors signing off on someone being allowed to receive a lethal injection? That makes me extremely nervous.
No one can argue how busy our hospital and medical system is, so after a while, how much time would really be spent on evaluating people and how often would a doctor sign off and be less thorough then he should.
There are some very good, conscientious doctors out there but if we are honest, most of us at some stage have come across a doctor who is perhaps not as thorough with our care. If they are not as particular or thorough could they look at someone's situation and see hopelessness without digging a little deeper? Without asking the bigger questions like, “how can we help to make your last days more comfortable”?
How about instead of helping people end their life we look at how we, as a community, can help people improve their final days, whether that be fifty years or five days more.
The report also states: “Palliative care has improved significantly in the last twenty years. In the vast majority of cases (but not all), pain and suffering can be treated to the satisfaction of the patient”.(2)
I mention this because suffering is something that is close to all of our hearts; the fear of suffering or watching someone we love suffer. The basis for Euthanasia is that people should have a choice on whether they let that suffering continue. However, as mentioned above, in most cases their pain and suffering can be treated with the right help.
My mum passed away eleven years ago.
She can no longer have a voice but her words still ring in my ears. I have many newspaper articles on her where she spoke out about Euthanasia. She was also a huge support and encouragement to other's around her with disabilities.
What will my children think about Euthanasia in years to come? When they bring it up I'll simply respond with “Let me tell you about your Grandma ...”
|Lesley and her granddaughter Katie|
Written in loving memory of Lesley Elaine Tyzack. 1947 - 2005 by her daughter Vicki L
P.S. Please share my Mother's story with your friends, your family and the world. You have my permission to share her story on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ etc)
Note: My mother's name was Lesley Elaine Tyzack
* This post is written by Vicki L who has given me permission to share it on my blog.
** Photo used with permission from Linton Photography to use image E917-D12-2450.
- (1) Inquiry Into End of Life Choices Final Report, Parliament of Victoria legislative Council, Victoria Should Legalise Assisted Dying page 225, Approval by two or more doctors 8.7.1., Victorian Government Printer, June 2016.
- (2) Inquiry Into End of Life Choices Final Report, Parliament of Victoria legislative Council, Chair's foreword page XVI, Victorian Government Printer, June 2016.
- Reforms recommended for end of life choices