Euthanasia debate is a question of conscience and humanity

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A real lady: Editor Matt Lawrence's nan Valda and father Graham.

A real lady: Editor Matt Lawrence's nan Valda and father Graham.

Once again the NSW legislators seem to have placed the issue of voluntary assisted dying in the too hard basket.

The current bill before parliament has been deferred to make way for an inquiry. It will then go before the Upper House for deliberation in 2022.

Of course, decisions on such an important matter should not be made haphazardly, however, one has to question why our state seems so scared to move forward.

NSW is lagging behind the rest of the country. It is the only state to have not passed legislation regarding voluntary assisted dying.

While a morally divisive issue, it should be noted, the legislation sets strict guidelines and a thorough process by which the terminally ill may engage medical assistance to end their lives.

In 2017 NSW parliament debated the matter. When put to a vote, it lost by one.

At the time, I, like many, felt compelled to share my thoughts, in hope to encourage our officials to really look at the "human" and "humane" realities.

It seems these words are every bit as relevant now as they were then:

Why I support your right to die

Valda Lawrence was an amazing woman. The first real lady I ever met.

Such was the extent of her caring that she earned the nickname Florence Nightingale among those closest.

It was a well earned moniker. She was always service above self - the needs of others before her own - as this grandson and regular recipient of her warmth can attest.

Even when she was at her sickest, it was still all about you.

Even when she had conceded it was time for her to go, she was still worried about filling out birthday cards for each of her family members to guarantee one last greeting.

My nan knew that she was dying.

My nan had lost her quality of life.

My nan had been stripped of her dignity.

My nan had had enough.

My nan only continued to take her medication for the sake of us.

My nan confided in me. She knew I would understand.

You see, we had both experienced something a little similar in the lead up.

Several years prior to my nan's passing, her husband - her lifelong love - lost his battle with a long-term illness. Again, I'm pretty sure if he'd had the chance he would have gone sooner.

But fight on he did, until of course the family was called to his bedside to witness those last laboured breaths before his final release from the pain.

It must be pointed out, as anyone who has witnessed a protracted passing will attest, the failing body will continue to fight to the very last to secure breath. There are few sadder and more gut-wrenching sights.

Never forgotten: Gazette editor Matt Lawrence's late wife Margaret.

Never forgotten: Gazette editor Matt Lawrence's late wife Margaret.

A matter of months after my pa's passing I lost my wife to a four-year battle with ovarian cancer, the last few months of which were spent in and out of palliative care.

It was only extreme doses of regularly administered drugs that kept my Margaret from some of the pain throughout the ordeal.

In some ways the drugs had a two-fold effect. While numbing the pain, they also shielded her to an extent from several of her greatest fears; losing control of her functions, having her husband turn into her carer ... the hallucinating has a way of changing perspectives of reality.

My wife was never told that she was going to die. I think it was just deemed something we'd logically assume.

Her positive nature and unwillingness to concede meant there was never any talk of her having had enough.

Looking back now, I believe if she had have known what lay ahead - with the clarity of a drug-free mind - I am near certain she would have called for a safe landing long before her actual passing.

But again, like my pa, Margaret fought hard and painfully for her final breaths.

I looked on with broken heart, feeling ill at ease, almost as if in some way I had aided and abetted her final suffering.

My nan understood this.

My nan became my rock.

I'd like to think that our regular "life" chats were of mutual benefit. We were both doing our angels proud.

Getting to know my grandmother on her own in those final years revealed so much more to me about the woman than I would have ever known, had tragedy not brought about such a swift double blow.

For the first time, nan seemed willing to allow me beyond the Florence Nightingale facade - not that it was of course.

While she never lost her positivity, she allowed me to know that she was ready for the end.

She didn't want to be a "burden" on those she loved.

She didn't want to be in pain any more.

She didn't want anyone else to have to hang out her washing!

I wish I could have granted my nan a humane way out; more than fair for one who'd never asked much from this world.

But as had been the case throughout her days, the final hours of my nan's life were spent appeasing others; this time however, forced to suffer for a "majority" of folk she didn't know, but who felt at liberty to tell her she had no right to a humane passing.

I concede, there are many facets of this matter which do indeed need careful consideration.

I just hope our legislators keep in mind the notion of humanity and the likes of my nan, pa and late wife when it is time to make their final decision.

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