START TALKING: Moya Jackson and husband Mark Herron implored community members to begin the conversation around voluntary euthanasia with their local members of parliament.
START TALKING: Moya Jackson and husband Mark Herron implored community members to begin the conversation around voluntary euthanasia with their local members of parliament. Sarah Steger

'Helpless': Woman watches brother's painful, horror death

BARGARA'S Moya Jackson is desperately clinging to the old memories of her brother - memories that precede the last mental image she has of a once boisterous man who, in the matter of months, wasted away to little more than skin and bones.

As the fatal pancreatic cancer took over his body, Earl Jackson's once heavy-set frame shrank into something Moya said looked like a concentration camp survivor's figure.

"I thought I was ready for it, but I wasn't," she said.

Earl died on March 25, one month after his 65th birthday.

He was diagnosed not five months before.

"The end came very fast, and he'd say to all of us and the doctors and nurses all the time, 'Why am I here? This isn't what I want'," Moya said.

A few weeks after the trauma, Moya joined Dying with Dignity and became a supporter of voluntary euthanasia.

"There's no words to explain walking in and seeing someone so helpless, who doesn't want to be there," Moya said.

"Withdrawing food was the only option (Earl) had, so what you saw in front of you was someone starving to death.

It's really hard to see anyone suffer like that."

Husband Mark Herron said the sight was confronting.

Moya has now sent letters to local media and politicians, asking for conversations around voluntary euthanasia.

"No more lip-service. People actually have to hassle their members. We need to keep bringing up. Yes it's raw and it hurts, but we have to keep bringing it up," she said.

Don't wait until this happens to you and realise 'Oh I should've done something'."

The couple admitted the hardest part about motivating people to have the conversation was people who hadn't been affected by it thinking it was not relevant to them.

Mark and his wife said they had always been "passively for something like this" but that the traumatic experience with Earl had "crystalised (their) minds into being active supporters and getting involved".

"I always thought it was appropriate ... But I don't think we realise until we experience it.

"One of the reasons behind the letter (sent to the NewsMail) was my brother's comment to me (at Lismore).

He looked right at me and said 'Sis, there should be voluntary euthanasia, I've never thought about it before, but this just shoves it in your face'."

"Then I went to Dying with Dignity and then I was just like 'Yes, I need to write letters, I need to get it out there'."

The youngest of seven siblings, Moya said the pain her brother had been in and how his body deteriorated in his last months affected everyone who loved him, not only Earl.

Moya Jackson is pushing for people to support the push for people who are suffering to be able to die with dignity.
Moya Jackson is pushing for people to support the push for people who are suffering to be able to die with dignity. Sarah Steger

"He had no control over his body functions, it was foul, it was terrible, he was embarrassed, he wouldn't let me stay and help him," she said.

Unable to hold back her tears, Moya said she felt completely helpless at that time and admitted "everyone" in her family had "lent over and said 'let go'," to the suffering father of three towards the end.

"He was always saying, 'why am I here, can't you do something about it?'," Moya cried.

You just sit and watch. The changes in him affect people's memories of what he was like."

Moya said legislation for voluntary euthanasia to be an option needed to be introduced.

"There's advanced health directives like 'no resuscitation' but you still can't say you want the option to accelerate your inevitable demise," she said.

He was competent, he was still there, if he could've made that decision he would've."

Moya said she and everyone else needed to start talking about voluntary euthanasia.

"We need to have the conversation with our loved ones so we know where they stand on it and they know what we'd want to do in that situation."

Dying with Dignity

Dying with Dignity is an advocacy organisation is pursuing a change in the law that will enhance choice at the end of life. The group is seeking legislation enabling competent adults experiencing unrelievable suffering from a terminal or incurable illness to receive medical assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing.

Member Sean Scott, 52, said he recommend joining, supporting or donating the group and start writing to and meeting with their politicians.

"I have been at the front-lines and seen people who have suffered intolerably. It is heartbraking," the former nurse said.
 

Sean lost his mother to pancreatic cancer in 2008. She died three months after being diagnosed.

Group meeting

The next scheduled Dying with Dignity meeting in Bundaberg is on May 4. It will be held after an event in conjunction with the Biggest Morning Tea. People can choose to go to one or both.


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