‘It’s a choice’: Cancer patient's powerful message as QLD euthanasia bill passes

·4-min read

An assisted dying campaigner, whose terminally ill brother starved himself to death, is now battling the same sickness in a tragic twist of fate.

Moya Jackson is thrilled she will now have a choice of when to end her life – if she decides to – after the Queensland Government’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed by parliament on Thursday.

"I'm ecstatic compassion has prevailed for those suffering from terminal illness," Moya told Yahoo News Australia. 

The laws allow people suffering a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal access to voluntary-assisted dying.

Their condition must be expected to cause death within a year, they must have decision-making capacity, and proceed without coercion.

A photo of Moya Jackson and Mark Herron who helped campaign for assisted dying laws in Queensland.
Moya Jackson and her husband Mark started campaigning for assisted dying laws after watching her terminally ill brother Earl starve himself to death. In a cruel twist, she’s now battling the same sickness but will have a choice when to end her life. Source: Supplied

Brother’s death prompted assisted dying push

The 66-year-old watched her brother’s life come to an “appalling” end in 2018 after he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

At 65, Earl Jackson was placed in palliative care but after an agonising few weeks he decided it was his time.

“He was in agony, screaming in pain when he was awake,” Moya recalls.

Moya said Earl believed his only option was to starve himself to death – a move which brought his doctor and oncologist to tears because there was nothing they could do for him.

Earl Jackson’s condition deteriorated quickly after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Source: Supplied
Earl Jackson’s condition deteriorated quickly after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Source: Supplied

“Palliative care does help some people but it certainly could not help him at all. He’d wake him and say I want to go, let me go,” she said.

“His death was absolutely appalling. I can’t get his image out of my mind when I think about it.”

Moya’s husband Mark Herron said that’s when they became aware of the need to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

The pair have been involved in the Queensland Dying with Dignity branch ever since.

“It’s all about giving dying people a choice in how their lives end, when it boils down, that is what it's about,” he said.

“A lot of people in this argument have lost sight of what this is about.”

Campaigner now facing cancer battle

Moya was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May last year – the same illness which killed her brother.

Thankfully, she caught it early and after multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a major surgical operation, there’s currently no evidence of the disease in her body.

But with pancreatic cancer being one of the most aggressive tumour types, Moya is relieved she will have the option to end her life on her terms if it returns.

“If you have that option, it gives you a feeling of release that you have a choice but you don’t always choose it,” she explained.

“No one turns around and says 'I’m over it, I'll do it now'. If I choose this, I would have already fought hard.

“He (Earl) didn’t have the opportunity, I will seize the opportunity.”

QLD bill passes parliament

Queensland has become the fifth Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was on Thursday passed by 60 of the state's 93 MPs in a rare conscience vote in Queensland's single legislative chamber.

It was met by applause in the public gallery after a marathon debate that took much of the parliamentary week.

Queensland Parliamentarians are seen during a vote for the second reading of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill at Queensland Parliament in Brisbane, Thursday, September 16, 2021. Source: AAP
Queensland has become the fifth state to legalise euthanasia after the government's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill passed parliament. Source: AAP

Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the law won't make terminally ill Queenslanders' deaths any less tragic, but it will ease their pain and suffering.

"It has been a very considered debate and, as many members on both sides of the house have said, it's been a very difficult debate," he told parliament on Thursday.

With AAP

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