Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman has revealed his deep regret over not fighting to legalise voluntary euthanasia after watching his mother “waste away” as she battled Alzheimer’s.
The 55-year-old ex-politician has opened up in an emotional first-person piece for the Courier Mail, revealing his family could not fulfil his mum’s final wishes because voluntary suicide is still illegal in Australia.
Newman’s mum Jocelyn died almost a year ago and, recalling the agonising time before her death, he wrote: “We saw a charismatic and commanding woman change. The whip smart mind was lost, she became argumentative and aggressive. This then morphed into a state of bewilderment and her body wasted away like her mind.”
Comparing her to a small bird he could have carried in one arm at the end, Newman said in the moving piece that while her death ended up being “merciful” – it wasn’t dignified.
The former politician revealed that his whole family were aware of her wishes to end her life before losing her dignity, but were unable to act on them due to the laws in the country – something he now regrets not fighting for himself during his time as premier.
He recalled to the news outlet how his mum would often joke to him and his sister that she’d want them to “shoot her”, should she ever deteriorate like her own father did from dementia, and Newman’s sister even found books on voluntary euthanasia in her possessions as well as handwritten notes admitting she knew she was losing her memories to Alzheimer’s.
Indeed, in 1997 Jocelyn gave a speech in the Federal Parliament at the time protesting against legislation introduced to overturn the NT Voluntary Euthanasia laws.
According to the ABC, the Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate previously noted that she said: “I wish to have the right to knowingly choose the time of my death and the circumstances in which I die.”
Admitting his regret at not taking action himself, Newman concluded in his piece for the Courier Mail: “She clearly, unequivocally, did not want to suffer in the way that she did and yet the system doomed her to years of misery… It wasn’t dignified, it wasn’t humane and it was against her wishes.”
Many countries have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted deaths, including Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and some states in the United States.
Currently, Victoria is the only state in Australia to have passed voluntary assisted dying laws with the legislation set to come into effect in 2019. It will offer a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neurodegenerative diseases, such as MND or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months or less to live.
Western Australia will introduce a bill next year to allow a conscious vote for MPs to allow voluntary assisted dying. Queensland has established a review to consider voluntary assisted dying to report back in November 2019.
South Australia’s last bill in 2016 was defeated by a single vote in its lower house of Parliament. The Northern Territory and ACT need the Federal Senate to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 which prohibited territories from legalising VAD.