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My life, my death, my choice

By Bill Alcock - posted Friday, 11 May 2007

When we get old and infirm it has become the custom to have us confined to a nursing home "out of sight, out of mind" with the obligatory, distressful, weekly visit from relatives. In this environment it is not very long before we lose quality of life and are allowed to linger on indefinitely awaiting the blessing of death to release us from our despair.

Quite apart from all the pain, distress and grief this causes to everyone, there is the tremendous waste of scarce resources that could be far better utilised for the benefit of those on waiting lists for vital medical procedures that would enable them to enjoy many more years of healthy life.

In my opinion the Northern Territory was on the right track and euthanasia could have been safely managed. I find it extremely difficult to understand the reason why the government will not accept the fact that over 70 per cent of our citizens support voluntary euthanasia.


I wholeheartedly agree with Amanda Vanstone`s comment: "Someone facing end of life should have a choice as to how that proceeds. I think people should have the choice to make the final step of their life- that is - to die with dignity and grace."

I am an 81-year-old Veteran Affairs pensioner and it would give me great peace of mind if I could have medical assistance to end my life in a dignified and peaceful manner - should I lose my quality of life. Although there are many possible health problems I believe dementia and Alzheimer's, and incontinence would be top of my “most dreaded” list.

Why would you keep anyone alive in a vegetative state? The relatives of accident victims with horrendous injuries are often asked to give consent to the withdrawal of life support so why not allow the elderly this option?

I have made repeated requests to both Peter Costello and Kevin Rudd to advise me of their attitude to this question, without success. As one of them is likely to be our next prime minister I think we are entitled to know if either of them agree with Amanda Vanstone.

It is my firm opinion that enforcing a prolonged life, when quality of life is lost, is a fate worse than death. It is inhumane to leave those who have lost their quality of life lingering. I fear degeneration far more than I fear death.

Times have changed: in my grandparents day there were no nursing homes and my parents cared for them at home. The family doctor came each week to check on them and when they lost quality of life, he asked for a family conference - he was given permission to ease each of them out in a dignified manner using analgesics.


I would strongly recommend that everyone prepare an “advance directive” and appoint an Enduring Guardian, so that he or she has the authority to liaise with the doctor in the preparation of a health care management plan when quality of life is lost.

The health care management plan should provide that you not be subjected to any medical intervention or treatment aimed at prolonging life, and there be no further sustenance. Any distressing symptoms (including any that may be caused by lack of food or fluids) are fully controlled by appropriate analgesic or other treatment, even though this may shorten life.

For those wishing to avoid prolonged confinement in a nursing home and distress to loved ones, I would strongly recommend that they take this action while they are still of sound mind.

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About the Author

Bill Alcock is a retired town clerk and Veterans Affairs pensioner with an interest in euthanasia. Bill lives in Port Maquarie and can be contacted at

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