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Family

Why my mum deserved to die with dignity

This woman's heartbreaking journey to find her mother peace has opened up an important discussion about the need for voluntary euthanasia in our country.

Image via Cheryl Eagers from Cherish You Portraits
My Mum was adored by everyone in our small town. Everyone knew her as Mama because she adopted grandchildren wherever she went. She would give you a feed or the shirt off her back, whatever you needed. Her name was Brenda Bartlem -Ward and she was 73 years old when she passed away earlier this year.
Unfortunately Mum had always suffered with chronic lung disease from a very young age. She never smoked in her life, but my Dad was a heavy smoker and smoked indoors for many years. When I was 15, Mum and Dad separated and I lived with Mum. My 2 older sisters had moved out and Mum and I became best friends.
Last year Mums lungs became so bad that she was put on oxygen 24/7. She had lost a lot of weight due to a bout of bowel cancer that she had been fighting and life became too much for Mum.
Besides COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Mum contended with the cancer, diabetes, shingles and an Aortic Aneurysm. She had filled in a Advanced Health Directive years before and had signed a DNR (do not resuscitate) order at the local hospital. She told us girls and her loving partner Des that she did not want to be put on a ventilator and this was also documented in the Advance Health Directive.
Mums last 8 weeks alive were terrible. She lost the use of her arms and legs. Therefore had to be helped to toilet, bathe and eat. She broke a rib during physio therapy as she was now down to 38 kgs and was only skin and bone. She developed necrotic bedsores as a result of not being able to re-position herself in bed. Her lungs filled with fluid as she rejected all medication, because her arms no longer worked, even coughing up into a tissue was beyond her. One of us had to clear her mouth out for her.
Mum told us she was sick of fighting, sick of the lack of dignity and sick of pain.
She just wanted to go.
She cried every morning when she woke up and realised she was still alive. She begged everyone from the doctor to the hospital cook to let her go peacefully and painlessly. Nothing we did seemed to ease her pain.
For a woman who relished cuddles and kisses, her pain became so bad she couldn't stand to be touched. It was agonising for her.
At one stage she told me she would starve herself if that meant she would go quicker.
Most nights I stayed on a recliner next to Mum's bed and in those long nights, Mum would ask me to 'help' her go. No Mother should ever have to ask that and no child should ever have to hear it. Now imagine that this is your Mum, or Nan, or Father or someone you love more than anything.
Mum told me to do everything I could to make sure that something was done, so that hopefully no other family would have to go through what we did.
I started a petition to the government to allow a referendum on the subject of Voluntary Euthanasia. I have tried various media outlets to gain recognition of the petition but I live in a tiny coastal community in North Queensland and haven't had much luck with publicising the petition. The petition isn't to sign only if you are pro Euthanasia, it's for everyone to say 'yes' or 'no'. To just let the people of Australia have a say.
Mum died on Anzac Day this year. I miss her every single minute of every day.
If pure love could have saved her, she never would have died.
I will do all I can in her name to get her story out to the public.
As Mum said, 'dying is just a part of life, it's going to come to everyone at some stage. We need to discuss death, it shouldn't be a taboo subject'.

Vicky Crichton has been campaigning for Voluntary Euthanasia since April.

Do you agree with Vicky? Email us on theweeklynews@bauer-media.com.au

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