'I still do not know if he died in pain': Maree Edwards MP's passionate plea for voluntary assisted dying

Maree Edwards opened up about the death of her husband Lindsay in 2002 during the debate over voluntary assisted dying laws in Victorian parliament.
Maree Edwards opened up about the death of her husband Lindsay in 2002 during the debate over voluntary assisted dying laws in Victorian parliament.

LINDSAY, the late husband of Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards, became everything he did not want to become in his final months.

After battling terminal brain cancer for seven years, his eventual death in 2002 was long and drawn out.

He had longed to avoid being left in a vegetative state – he even spoke of suicide before it was too late.

Nothing could be done, however.

“To this day I still do not know if he died in pain or not,” Ms Edwards said.

In a speech to parliament on Tuesday night, Ms Edwards spoke in detail about Lindsay’s experience while voicing her support for voluntary assisted dying laws in Victoria.

Lindsay was diagnosed with a glioblastoma tumour in the left temporal lobe, which controls hearing, facial recognition, emotion and long-term memory.

Related: Jacinta Allan backs voluntary assisted dying laws

The tumour was discovered in 1995 when Lindsay had a seizure. He underwent surgery and radiotherapy, maintaining a high quality of life.

But that deteriorated towards the end.

The family had to become accustomed to his short-term memory loss, and when he found out in late 2001 that the tumour was growing, they started to prepare for the inevitable.

“It was then, when chemotherapy and the growth of the tumour meant the decline in his quality of life was rapid, that he spoke to me about how he wished to end his life before he was in a vegetative state, if he had the opportunity,” Ms Edwards said.

“This of course was not an option back then.”

It would unlikely be an option under the proposed laws in Victoria either.

While supportive of the voluntary assisted dying laws, Ms Edwards conceded that Lindsay’s limited short-term memory meant it was unlikely that he would have been able to access assisted dying under the legislation.

“I believe that Lindsay probably would not have met the criteria for voluntary assisted dying, and I accept that,” she said.

“Having short-term memory loss meant that during a lucid and comprehending day he was able to articulate his choices but hours later he would have no memory of this or of having had any conversation about it.”

The Victorian laws are described as the most conservative in the world, and contain a range of safeguards.

The parliament is currently debating the laws and it is unclear whether they will pass.

Ms Edwards and Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan have both signalled their intention to vote in favour. Ms Allan is expected to speak on the laws on Wednesday.