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Dying with dignity: it’s a no-brainer

22 September 2016 249 views 2 Comments

Ever since having seen my late mother suffer so much when all she wanted was to slip away peacefully, I have been a strong public advocate, for others and for myself, of Dying with Dignity.

After a long struggle in the 1990s with a series of hospital physicians, my mother, Edna Fitzgerald (nee Beecher) of 41 Charles Street, East Brighton, in suburban Melbourne, eventually died in her mid-80s.

A few years before her death, due to a combination of glaucoma and cataracts, my mother went blind. She was then hospitalised in Melbourne with a series of complaints, which eventually involved both of her legs being amputated.

Despite her stated wish to be able to die with some peace and dignity, the hospital physicians continued to “treat” Edna for a variety of illnesses and complaints.

When I requested that all the “Jesus machines” please be turned off, the lead surgeon told me that he was doing all of these procedures to help my mother.

It was only when I responded “No you’re not. You’re doing all this to help yourselves” and then insisted, again and again, that all of Edna’s life support machines be switched off, that the hospital physicians finally relented and let my mother die.

But this was many weeks after she clearly wanted to die without having to suffer any more medical interventions.

Ever since observing Edna’s very difficult and unnecessarily lengthy death, I have been a strong, public supporter of Dying with Dignity , in the form of physician-assisted dying or voluntary euthanasia.

My mother’s unfortunate hospital experiences is one of a number of reason why my wife Lyndal, our daughter Emerald and myself decided to join Dying with Dignity NSW and also the Australian Sex Party.

All three of us are strong supporters of what voluntary assisted dying activists, including Andrew Denton and Derryn Hinch, are trying to achieve in Australia.

Indeed strong support for Dying with Dignity is a central reason why, this year, I decided to stand for Federal Parliament as the Australian Sex Party’s lead Senate candidate for NSW.

This is in large part because physician assisted dying/voluntary euthanasia ties in exactly with the Australian Sex Party’s primary slogan: “Your life. your choice”.

This seems to me a no-brainer, despite the fact that many people, especially those of a religious persuasion, still refuse to allow other people the right to decide for themselves when and how to die.

Ross Fitzgerald is an emeritus professor of history and politics at Griffith University, and the author of 39 books, including a memoir, ‘My name is Ross; An Alcoholic’s Journey’, and the co-written political/ sexual satire ‘Going Out Backwards’.

The Canberra Times, September 22, 2016


  • Kirsten Garrett said:

    Dignified dying

    So many many people, a majority, agree 100 per cent with Ross Fitzgerald when he writes of the wish of elderly or terminally ill people to choose the time of their death ( “Dying with dignity: It’s a no-brainer”, Comment, September 22, pp16-17).

    People don’t want to be kept alive against their wishes. Professor Fitzgerald is to be congratulated for making his views public.

    Kirsten Garrett, Redfern, NSW

    The Canberra Times, September 24, 2016

  • Dick Whitaker said:

    Dying to get out

    Ross Fitzgerald’s article “Dying with dignity: It’s a no-brainer” (September 22, pp16-17) is well timed for a number of reasons. For one, we are approaching the first anniversary of the suicides of the eminent meteorologist Peter Shaw and his wife Pat, a carefully planned action that generated widespread publicity.

    Some years before, Peter, in explaining his attitude towards departing from life, stated “Our reason for suicide may be anticipation of pain and incompetence but quite likely just a sense of a life accomplished and coming to a conclusion”.

    This philosophy is embraced by many and should be respected, as is the religious viewpoint of preservation of life at all costs. The case of Professor Fitzgerald’s mother shows another aspect of this issue – the pain inflicted as a result of the medical prolonging of life – even when there is little or no hope of a meaningful existence.

    Peter and Pat Shaw also remarked “To those who say we don’t have the right to choose the time and manner of our departure, well we do and we did”. Their departure date was October 27, 2015.

    Richard Whitaker, Terrigal, NSW

    The Canberra Times, September 26, 2016

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