My parents may have been robbed of milestones by euthanasia

Liberal member for Churchlands, Sean L'Estrange shared with the WA Legislative Assembly how both his mum and dad outlived cancer prognoses to achieve many significant milestones with their family.  He warned that if euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalised this could "have hung over them like a difficult decision embedded in their subconscious when they were in their darkest hours".

One of the inevitable results of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide is that it forces every person with a diagnosis of a terminal illness to make a decision every single day not to give in and choose an early death. Sean L'Estrange's accounts of his parents battle with cancer illustrate how a pessimistic prognosis is often wrong.

He first told how his mother had outlives a two year prognosis by a further three years:

I had the challenging experience of witnessing my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 and given two years to live—a time span she hid from my sister and I at the time. I was 16 and my sister was 13. Our mother received the best medical care and we got on with life as a family, as normally and as positively as possible. In the end, she died just short of her forty-second birthday, beating the two-year diagnosis by three years. She put on a brave face and pushed on throughout her cancer journey so that the reality of her impending death was concealed from my sister and I for much of the time. Her brave fight and the medical support that extended her diagnosis by three years meant she got to see my sister and I graduate from school, both attend university, and my graduation from officer training. In the end, she received palliative care up to the point at which she declined further futile treatment and, in her final days, received the best possible relief from symptoms so as not to prolong the dying process.

He then shared how his father battled with cancer on three separate occasions over an 18 to 19-year period. 

The first was bowel cancer when he was about 60. It was caught late, but it was dealt with before it was able to spread to other organs. He was on a colostomy bag, receiving chemo, and struggling on as best he could, but with a very positive outlook. He always considered living to be better than the alternative, and he fought hard to beat off the cancer, again with excellent medical help, and succeeded. Ten years later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer; this time, he had grandchildren. Again, his fighting spirit and treatment—albeit uncomfortable and painful—also saw this cancer off.

But at age 75 came his biggest challenge, when he developed cancer in the lower back. He received intensive chemo, which made it very difficult for him to eat as the skin in his mouth was burning. He did his best to blend nutrients and eat through a straw while living alone, and he fought hard, but his body deteriorated and he went from being a big man of 95 kilograms down to 65 kilograms. My sister and I at Christmas that year had a private chat; we did not expect dad to last six weeks. However, we underestimated him. His goal was to attend his first grandfathers’ day at his old school, to continue to interact with his family and his many friends, and to beat the cancer. Remarkably, he did so, and with his PSA levels down to almost zero after a couple of years, and back to a healthier weight above 75 kilograms, his specialist called him her miracle. He made the grandfathers’ day, along with many other family milestones, but in the end, four years after his third battle with cancer, he died of a heart attack in the driveway, fully dressed on his way out to go to the shops and to see friends.

Sean L'Estrange warned that legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide would put undue pressure on people faced with a terminal illness to choose a premature death:

I share these stories because they are examples of the strength of the human spirit in the face of mortal adversity. What concerns me is that had euthanasia been an option for my parents, would it have hung over them like a difficult decision embedded in their subconscious when they were in their darkest hours? Would they have felt the need to access voluntary euthanasia? But it was not an option, and for us as a family, their lives were extended, and many milestones were achieved, shared and enjoyed by virtue of them living beyond what was expected.

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