If an illness is prolonged or very debilitating, some people think about speeding things up. Euthanasia is when somebody’s life is deliberately ended to relieve them of their suffering from an incurable condition or illness.
Physician-assisted suicide is when a person ends their own life with the help of a doctor.
In 2016, both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were illegal in every state and territory in Australia. There is currently much discussion of these issues, and the laws are under review in some places (visit End of Life Law in Australia for updates). Regardless of the law, some seriously ill people consider this path.
Sometimes a person with cancer may decide that they want their death hastened, but later decide that they don’t. They may have thought that way because they were feeling particularly ill, scared or worried about the strain they were putting on others.
If this is how you feel, discuss your concerns with a doctor, counsellor or social worker. Sometimes these feelings are due to depression or a sense of helplessness, or because pain or other symptoms are not being well controlled.
Pain and depression can almost always be treated, and help is generally available for other symptoms. It is important that you talk to your doctor or nurse about any physical or emotional symptoms that are causing you pain or distress, and find ways to make your final days more comfortable.
If you urgently need somebody to talk to because you are thinking about ending your life, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for free, confidential telephone counselling at any time.