It’s time for us to talk about death

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser
Albany woman, Grytsje Doust shared memories of her mother who chose an assisted dying method after she was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
Camera IconAlbany woman, Grytsje Doust shared memories of her mother who chose an assisted dying method after she was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

When she was diagnosed with acute leukaemia at 76, Grytsje Doust’s mother chose to die through voluntary assisted suicide.

Before her diagnosis, Klaske Van Der Meulen had battled bone marrow cancer for seven years.

This time around, the doctor had given her five months to live.

Knowing the end was near, Ms Van Der Meulen made sure she could die on her own terms.

With her loved ones by her side, she died peacefully in her home in the Netherlands after receiving euthanasia drugs from her local doctor in January, 2007.

Mrs Doust said she missed her mother to this day, but she was glad she had had the option to end her life with dignity.

“I have always been very close to my mother, so it was a very emotional time” she said.

“All in all it was — maybe it is a strange word to say — a beautiful procedure and it gave my mother such peace of mind.”

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Mrs Doust now lives in Albany, where two high-profile euthanasia cases in 2014 threw the town into the nation’s spotlight.

“I think we need to have a more healthy discussion on death,” she said.

Mrs Doust shared her personal experiences with euthanasia in April, 2018 as part of a wide-ranging WA parliamentary inquiry established to explore end-of-life choices.

In evidence before a parliamentary committee, Mrs Doust was asked whether her mother had access to a satisfactory level of palliative care in the Netherlands.

She said the palliative care was “excellent” and her mother had everything at her disposal.

The voluntary assisted dying process was “very strictly controlled” and she could not envisage it being abused by other relatives, she said.

The committee tabled its report in August, recommending that the State Government introduce a voluntary assisted dying Bill.

A ministerial expert panel, which was formed to guide the legislative process, released a discussion paper last month. The panel is now calling for the public’s input, with consultation sessions scheduled across WA.

The first session was held in Kalgoorlie-Boulder last Thursday.

Mrs Doust said her experience with her mother’s death had made her an advocate for voluntary euthanasia.

“My father, who also has since passed away, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer several years after my mother died,” she said. “He could have chosen for euthanasia as it was there for him, but refused to do so. He knew that option was not for him.

“So by legalising it does not necessarily encourage everyone to take it. But it’s important to give people the option, because I think our society has kept death very far away.”

A voluntary assisted dying Bill is expected to go before State Parliament later this year.

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