Euthanasia advocate wants suffering eased

Minto's Ken Attenborough watched his mother die and is watching his father slowly die. Mr Attenborough felt powerless to help and became a strong advocate for legalising voluntary euthanasia. Picture: Simon Bennett

Minto's Ken Attenborough watched his mother die and is watching his father slowly die. Mr Attenborough felt powerless to help and became a strong advocate for legalising voluntary euthanasia. Picture: Simon Bennett

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Ken Attenborough watched his mother die in agony and wants to spare other families that pain. 

He is among Macarthur’s most vocal advocates for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.

“The trauma of the appalling end for my wonderful mother and more importantly my failure to prevent a final series of humiliations and suffering has slowly eaten away at me ever since,” Mr Attenborough said.

A cross-party Private Members Bill is expected to be introduced to State Parliament within months.

Terminally ill NSW residents over the age of 25 would have the legal right to end their own lives with medical assistance under the draft legislation.

To qualify, the patient would need to meet strict conditions including that they are expected to die within 12 months and are of sound mind, and the decision must be signed off by two medical practitioners.

Mr Attenborough said his advocacy was born from a feeling of powerless to ease his mother’s pain after she told him that “she no longer wanted to endure her current existence and wanted to die”.

Years later his father was struck down with a stomach illness and Mr Attenborough found himself in the same position – his father told him he wanted to die.

“His only desire was to make sure that we would be okay before he moved on to whatever lies beyond our deaths,” Mr Attenborough said.  “My father had fervently hoped the surgery to install a feeding tube would take his life. Much to his disappointment it did not.

“He was making a choice that was not based on depression or anxiety or a lack of value in the dignity of life, but on the simple realisation that his time had come.”

Mr Attenborough said he found himself in a difficult position where he contemplated helping his father end his life because he could not bear to see him in pain.

He said he knew people in a similar position to him – desperate people who were forced to do desperate things.

That is why Mr Attenborough is an advocate and why he is calling on others to tell their local MPs that they support the legalisation.

“Sadly, I was one of those many thousands of people who passively supported voluntary euthanasia,” he said. “I was not spurred into action until tragedy was right on my door step.

“I am tired, I am hurting and I do not see a cure for the guilt that has plagued me now at having failed both my mother and my father in their time of greatest need.

“I am haunted by a question that I think I shall never know the answer to. 

“How can anyone assume they know how much someone else can endure, or how much someone else should suffer before they are set free?

“Please don’t wait until you or someone you love needs the mercy of our society to end their suffering. For you will find none, and it is a heavy cross to bear.”

Next week the Advertiser will present the case against the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia with a response from Bishop Peter Ingham from the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong.

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