The wife of an Aussie fireman who ended his own life at a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland earlier this year has spoken out, on the same day that Victoria legalised assisted dying – revealing her late husband would be happy to see the law in place.
Former Melbourne firefighter Troy Thornton, 54, exclusively spoke to Starts at 60 in February – just days before his death – to reveal his reasons for ending his own life.
He was diagnosed in July 2014 with multiple system atrophy, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by degeneration of nerve cells in parts of the brain that can affect movement, balance, speech, bladder control and even breathing. The symptoms worsen over time and tragically there is no cure.
His wife Christine, who has children Jack, 17 and Laura, 14, with her late husband, has now revealed to AAP that her family are “at peace” knowing he was able to die with dignity and on his own terms.
“I’m not questioning myself about whether it was the right thing. I know exactly how he was feeling,” Christine told the agency, according to 7 News. “He was scared of what was coming (from his disease), and it was coming over the hill very quickly.
“I’m at peace that I was able to fulfil Troy’s wishes. We had so many conversations about it, over so long. His whole thing was having the right to chose a good death over a bad one. To have dignity. He got that.”
Christine insisted her children are both “doing okay” now, having had several months to prepare themselves to say goodbye to their father, all while watching him slowly suffer more and more each day from his disease.
In fact, Christine revealed that Troy choked to the point of unconsciousness just days before flying to Switzerland, reportedly confirming to him that he’d made the right decision.
“He just said I know I’m doing the right thing. I can’t be found like this,” she recalled.
Remembering her final moments with her husband in Switzerland, Christine said she was able to sit by Troy’s side after the drug was administered and whisper to him for his final few minutes, telling him how much she and their children loved him.
She insisted to the agency that he would be happy now to see the recent law passed in Victoria – the only state to make assisted dying legal in Australia at present – but insisted it’s just the start. She now hopes further changes will be made to make it accessible to more people.
Troy would not have been eligible for the law as he suffered from a chronic degenerative disease which doctors were unable to confirm would kill him within a year.
There are strict stipulations in Victoria, and anyone who wishes to apply must be a Victorian resident, be aged 18 and over and have been assessed by two doctors to have a terminal illness with intolerable pain that will likely cause death within six months. In the case of neurodegenerative conditions – such as Troy – the timeframe is extended to 12 months.
Speaking to Starts at 60 before his death, Troy revealed that while Victoria’s new bill is a huge step in the right direction, it still fundamentally has the wrong focus.
“I’ve realised the human rights law in Switzerland have the right focus. That focus is a human’s right to choose,” he said. “But over here, it seems our legislators have got a whole different focus. They’re focused on terminal illnesses, suffering and pain… They should be focused on the right to choose.”
While Troy said he’s not suffering from pain himself, he still suffers from a poorer quality of life – and it’s only set to get worse.
“If you’re sound of mind and you feel you have a quality of life that is below what you’d want to have, you should have that right to choose to check out when and how and where you want,” he said at the time.