ASSISTANCE: Steven Purcell is calling for legislation on voluntary assisted dying after he watched his grandmother die an agonising death.
ASSISTANCE: Steven Purcell is calling for legislation on voluntary assisted dying after he watched his grandmother die an agonising death. Cordell Richardson

Call for action to end intolerable suffering

THE time for talk is over, now is the time for action.

That's the call from Liz Whitton and other residents after the Queensland Parliamentary committee inquiry into voluntary assisted dying concluded in Ipswich yesterday.

Ms Whitton was one of many who attended the public hearing at the North Ipswich Reserve which also heard submissions on aged care, end-of-life and palliative care.

"The debate about voluntary assisted dying has been going back and forth for too long now,” Ms Whitton said. "The focus needs to shift. I'd like to see some real decisions being made.

"A timeline on the implementation of a Bill for Queensland would be a good start.

"It's a Bill that is very much needed.”

For Ms Whitton the need for action is personal.

"This is a way of thinking that's come to me after many years of looking after family members who've died untimely and agonising deaths.

"I've witnessed it at the bedside, I've been a carer and I've been ill myself with cancer.

"So I speak for myself and for those around me.

"I understand the concerns, but people who are suffering need choices.

"They should be able to decide when and how they want to end their life.

"My husband of 25-years passed away a couple of years ago.

"He had melanoma which metastasised to his liver. He died an agonising death.

"I looked after him at home until he took his last breath.

"There were many anguished and desperate conversations about how he would like to take his life.

"Today my daughters and I often talk about how it would have been better to let him go in a respectful way and not have those last few weeks of absolute agony.”

It is a story that is all too familiar for another resident Steven Purcell.

Mr Purcell, who is known for his work with Goodna Street Life and also as a health policy co-ordinator for the Greens, watched his much-loved grandmother pass away in 2017.

"The process leading up to her death was very painful and traumatic for her and the family,” Mr Purcell said.

"Over a period of eight years we watched her deteriorate. First from a painful degenerative bone disease and then later on, dementia.

"There's a history of dementia in her family. She watched her grandmother and mother succumb to it, and was terrified of ending up like that herself.

"It was clear that if that she was ever diagnosed with it, she didn't want to live like that.

"She made us promise that we would not let her suffer and it is horrifying to think this is what her life came to, despite everything she wanted, against all of her wishes, she left this world in a great deal of pain and trauma and today this weighs heavily on everyone in the family.

"Other people in the community have similar stories and now we need better options.

"We need to understand that it is a person's right to leave this world on their own terms.

"For my Nan that would have been leaving this world knowingly, and not leaving a legacy of trauma.

"It is a complicated issue but the first step is to ensure that people who are suffering intolerable pain have a means to take control of that,” Mr Purcell said.