Let’s end the humiliation

End the suffering and humiliation: Ken Attenborough – a pro-euthanasia campaigner – with a picture of his late mother, Valerie. Picture: Simon Bennett
End the suffering and humiliation: Ken Attenborough – a pro-euthanasia campaigner – with a picture of his late mother, Valerie. Picture: Simon Bennett

“A broken woman, lying in bed with her hair falling out and covered in shit.”

That is one of the last memories Minto resident Ken Attenborough has of his mum, Valerie.

But it’s those memories that have spurred the 41-year-old on to be a voice for those pushing to have voluntary euthanasia legalised.

The debate is expected to come before state parliament later this year.

MPs are expected to be granted a conscience vote, meaning they will not be forced to toe the party line.

When decision time comes, Mt Attenborough is hopeful the majority of state MPs will see fit to allow those diagnosed with terminal illnesses, the legal right to end their life.

“At the end of the day you can believe whatever you want but people should have the right to chose the way they end their life,” he said,

“Some people may see the end of a life as a tragedy, but in some circumstances it’s a relief.”

Mr Attenborough’s mother died naturally about 12 years ago as a result of a brain tumor, caused by melanoma.

He and his sister helped look after their mother in her bed-bound final days.

The suffering and humiliation his mother endured is not something he believes anyone should have to live through.

“It was awful,” he said.

“She was very weak after the chemo and the tumor kept growing and growing which affected her eyesight and balance.

“She got really bad diarrhoea and she hated that her kids had to take her to the toilet. But the biggest problem was that she couldn’t get to the toilet in time.

“It was extremely humiliating for Mum. It was senseless making her live longer than she wanted to.”

His mother’s condition worsened to the point that she asked her son to help end her life.

While he wanted to help, legally his hands were bound.

“It was a terrifying idea – you can get in a lot of trouble (for helping),” he said.

Mr Attenborough said his mother repeatedly asked him to aid her death.

The daily requests lasted a couple of weeks until she suffered a stroke which led to her death shortly after.

Mr Attenborough said the pain, suffering and humiliation could have been avoided if voluntary euthanasia had been legalised.

“It was awful, horrible and unnecessary for that to happen,” he said.

“If she had the option she could have said ‘it’s time to go’, taken the pill and told us she loved us. (Voluntary euthanasia) is a good opportunity for everybody to have closure in a loving environment … and to say ‘goodbye’.

“I think a lot of people would find peace in that.”

Mr Attenborough knows both he his mother would have.