Liberal MP for Bass
THE Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is certainly the most significant piece of legislation to come before the chamber during my time in Parliament.
I have read the legislation and relevant literature and commentary available through industry, community groups and our media outlets.
I have also met with people suffering a terminal illness and listened intently to people in the industry, CEOs of hospitals and aged care facilities, nurses and doctors.
They all spoke about the palliative care practices that are already in place throughout theirs and other similar facilities and the last days of those in insufferable pain ending with as much peace and dignity as humanly possible.
But more importantly I will remember the last conversations I had with two people in particular.
My father’s wife Lorraine had tried taking her own life on numerous occasions. Lorraine suffered from a mental illness and spent the last few years of her life traumatised and tormented by this terrible condition. As a result of her attempts at suicide she suffered physical injuries, strokes and her life ended whilst she was in palliative care. During this time Lorraine begged me to let her die. She had made the choice that she no longer wanted to live. A view she had expressed to me several times over the years.
Lorraine wouldn’t have been eligible under this legislation but her choice and her right to die on her own terms was clear to me.
Inverloch's Raymond Godbold would have been eligible under this legislation. I met with Ray on a couple of occasions and one conversation in a local coffee shop remains etched in my mind.
Ray was a 59 year old professional palliative care nurse. Suffering from terminal gastroesophageal cancer, he could barely eat or drink. A chest infection had floored Ray leaving him at times delirious and distressed. He had clarity one moment then confusion the next – veering wildly between states of comfortable zen and acute pain.
Ray fought to retain his quality of life to the very end.
His son Rory said Ray "wasn't relaxed", "but he wasn't ready to leave."
In the months leading up to his death, he often fell, splitting the skin on his emaciated frame.
He had joked in the past that if he lived to see the next spring racing carnival, he would be the right weight to ride in the cup. Towards the end – stooped but still six feet tall – he was perhaps only 40 kilograms.
We laughed when Ray knocked over his cup of coffee during our meeting. He cursed himself for being clumsy. I said that I understood and we laughed again.
"It's hard," said his wife, Robyn. "As much as you talk about it and reason out the process intellectually, ending your life – it's hard."
Ultimately, his final few days provided another example of the flawed system he wished to challenge. On August 12, the day before he slipped away, he made the decision to end his life.
Ray had illegally accessed a suitable drug and keep it in a bottle in a safe place at home.
"Give it to me," he said. "Get it for me. I'm ready."
But the medication is bitter, the dose is large, and he was already struggling to keep down any liquid or food. What he wished for and what he was capable of were incompatible.
"When he was able to take it, he wasn't ready," his daughter Ella said. "When he was ready to take it, he wasn't able."
Ray expressed the view that people in his position should have a choice about how and when to end their life.
I told Ray that I shared his view and I gave him my commitment that if legislation came into parliament that provided people in his position an opportunity to exercise a choice, provided it included sufficient safeguards, I would give it my support.
I intend to honour my commitment to Raymond Grant Godbold, the loving husband of Robyn, and loved father of Tara, Ella and Rory, who died on the August 13, 2015, and cast my vote in his memory.
This is an edited transcript of Brian Paynter's speech to Parliament on October 17 in support of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill. Mr Paynter was one of only five Liberal MPs to support the bill, which passed the Lower House yesterday by 47 votes to 37 after a 25-hour sitting. The bill will now be considered by the 40 members of the Legislative Council.
Next week: MLC for Eastern Victoria Daniel Mulino's response to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.