Fighting for the rights to die
The organisation advocating for dignified deaths
THE indescribable pain Larry Lawton endured watching two of his great loves suffer in agony isn’t a torment he wishes on any person.
The 91-year-old held his first wife in his arms as she took her final breath six weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
When his second wife found out she had cancer of the uterus after battling breast cancer years before, she refused to live with the disease again.
“She said to me, ‘Larry, I can’t take this any more’,” Mr Lawton said.
“She asked the doctors to take the food sustenance needle out of her arm, and she starved herself to death.”
After watching his wife “slowly die for 14 days”, Mr Lawton decided to take the rights of the terminally ill into his own hands.
He has been a passionate member of Dying With Dignity Queensland for more than 20 years, an organisation currently asking for submissions for a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in Queensland to allow those suffering with terminal conditions to legally access medical assistance to end their own lives.
Mr Lawton believes voluntary euthanasia should be a personal choice based on a patient’s wishes when discussed with their doctor.
“It shouldn’t be in the hands of complete strangers sitting in Parliament House, many of them governed by their religious beliefs,” he said.
Sunshine Coast co-ordinator Denise Sauer’s decision to be involved was emotional, as her husband Jack developed frontotemporal dementia after a major surgery.
Mrs Sauer became his full-time carer in the years leading up to his death.
“This strong, tall and handsome 135kg man ended his days as a 68kg bag of bones,” she said.
“It was truly disgusting and he would have hated it.”
Mrs Sauer said the organisation is adamant those who disagree with their message shouldn’t deny others of “their rights”.
“If someone wants to die in agony because of their belief, well good for them,” she said. “It’s their choice, but it’s not mine.”
The Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry is seeking submissions until April 15.
Visit the website www.dwdq.org.au for more.
MY LIFE, MY CHOICE: Denise Sauer is a passionate supporter of Dying with Dignity.