1st Nov 2012

Right to die

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After seeing her mother suffer through the last days of her life, YOURLifeChoices member Joy does not want to suffer the same fate, but is not sure she has any legal right to die.

Q. Joy
There has been a lot of talk about people making a document that will not allow them to go on living when there is no living left. I do not want to die as my mum did. For five years she lived an almost vegetative state.  She was helped into a chair; she was moved back into bed; she was fed mush with a spoon until she could no longer swallow. Then Mum was fed via an IV. Mum no longer knew who anyone was, nor did she react to her surroundings, she just sat there.

Is there any organisation which is championing the right to die when one no longer knows they are living? 

Firstly, you should look into creating an advanced health care directive. This document protects your legal rights to:

  • refuse unwanted medical treatment
  • protect your right to receive desired medical treatment, and?
  • ensure you receive relief from pain and suffering to the maximum extent that is reasonable in the circumstances.

To find out more about what is covered in an advanced health care directive, or how one can be created, read our article Do I have a say in my medical treatment?

There are many people who feel strongly about the choice of when one ends their life and there are several state-based organisations which offer support and advocacy. To find out more about supporting the push for the legal right to die, click on your state and organisation below.

NSW – Dying with Dignity
VIC – Dying with Dignity
QLD – Dying with Dignity
TAS – Dying with Dignity
WA – WAVES
SA – SAVES
NT – NTVES 

 





COMMENTS

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petersm
7th Nov 2012
9:58am
Turns out that the Advance Health Care Directives are not worth the paper they are written on. My mother had one prepared, through Barwon Regional Health Services, 2 years ago. She is 86 years of age, and in the final stages of complete heart failure, and did not want to end up enduring the sort of treatment Joy's mother, and many of her friends and family have had to endure. Thought she was well covered. Assured that the document would be placed on her medical file so that all hospitals in the region would be aware of her wishes. She also carries a copy in her handbag. All sorted, she and we thought.
4 weeks ago mum suffered a mild stroke, taken to Geelong Hospital, where the care, from the moment she was wheeled in to the moment she walked out 5 days later was excellent. However, no notice what so ever was taken of the directive, with doctors putting the pressure on, from the moment of arriving in Emergency, to discharge, to have (a) a pacemaker fitted and (b) to go on dialysis, both options which have been discussed and rejected previously. Told the pace maker 'might' give a 2% - 3% improvement to her cardic function. We asked each of the doctors why they were not respecting her wishes as set out in the directive. Responses - in Emergency everyone is treated 'as systems go', until such time as the full medical history is retrieved and we have time to read it, yes, you have told us about it and shown us the copy but your mother may have changed her mind, to well yes that is what she wanted then, and is saying now, but she may have changed her mind, and is so muddled now that she can't convey that to us, to, well your brother doesn't agree, so we have to consider his feelings'. We were also told that the Medical Power of Attorney - yes, mum really tried to cover all bases - was just as worthless a document. Again, if just one family member disagreed, then the doctors will not respect directions given by those holding the MPA. The doctors also told us that at the end of the day, if in their view mum's condition may be 'aided' by medical treatment, which she would reject, such as feeding tube, pace maker, then they could disregard both the directive and MPA. We are quite concerned following this experience and have sought legal advice, but turns out to be just as confusing. Seems that at the end of the day the doctors may very well have the final say! As to what this is doing to mum, well nothing good and she should not have to spend her final days worrying about ending up at the end of a feeding tube, or in a vegetative state.
Steve
8th Nov 2012
1:46pm
I have thought about these things for a long time & have made made a "Health Care Directive". It is lodged with our local medical practice and local rural hospital which is serviced by the same doctors. I know it is on file as I have seen them.

The most important thing to do is discuss your wishes with you doctors but most imporantly with your family and explain your reasons for what you want. My wife and children agree with my wishes and also have copies.

I also think that the cost of funerals is exorbitant so I have left my body to the regional University School of Medicine for medical research, teaching, organ donation etc. I had only one objection to this from one of my children because she wouldn't have a grave to visit. After not much discussion she agreed it was a goood idea.

Steve


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