WESTERN Australia’s opposition leader has cried in parliament while sharing her late husband’s experience battling pancreatic cancer as debate continues on voluntary assisted dying legislation.
Under the proposal, terminally-ill adults living in WA who are in pain and likely have less than six months to live – or one year if they have a neurodegenerative condition – could take a drug to end their lives or ask a doctor to do it.
Shaking and wiping away tears, Liza Harvey said on Thursday that she remained undecided on the legislation.
She said she had some concerns, including how it would work in remote and regional areas, and the fact that there was no compulsion for people to have a proper mental health assessment by a GP.
“My concern regarding this comes from looking through the prism of my own experiences,” she said.
“I have, as most people know, been through the difficult, sad and traumatic experience of caring for my late husband Hal while he fought pancreatic cancer.”
Ms Harvey said her husband was diagnosed in June 2011 and had surgery two months later.
“We were told to get our affairs in order. They’d try to get us past Christmas,” she said.
Ms Harvey said her husband became depressed and wanted to go to Switzerland to access voluntary euthanasia.
“I made it very clear to him that I would not be going on a holiday to knowingly bring him home in a coffin,” she said.
“But I would find him a good clinical psychologist.
“I also said that I wanted to be able to look our children in the eye and tell them that he had fought hard to stay with them.”
Ms Harvey said her husband received treatment and the family brought forward his retirement, using the next three years to take family holidays and create memories.
Towards the end of his life, he was heavily medicated, had psychosis and weighed just 52kg.
“I’d be counselling friends outside of his room who would be saying, sometimes loud enough for Hal to hear, ‘how can you let this keep going? I wouldn’t let my dog die like this’,” Ms Harvey said.
“I cannot tell you how heartbreaking and distressing it is.”
Ms Harvey said if the legislation passed, WA would be only the 13th jurisdiction in the world to introduce voluntary assisted dying.
“I’m not sure if that makes us more advanced or compassionate as a society,” she said.
Attorney-General John Quigley, who described himself as a stumbling Catholic, said he would be “voting firmly yes”.
Nationals MP Terry Redman also backed the legislation and congratulated his lower house colleagues for an orderly debate so far.
“It’s been fantastic the approach everyone has taken so far with their discussion … I’m not sure it will necessarily play out the same in the other place (upper house),” he said.