Father's wish to die unable to be fulfilled

Wendy Artis cared for her terminally-ill father Cyril Waddington in the final months of his life.  Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON
Wendy Artis cared for her terminally-ill father Cyril Waddington in the final months of his life. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

WENDY Artis said she never saw her dad cry until the weeks before his death.

Bedridden in his Longford home with terminal cancer, Cyril Waddington pleaded with his daughter to help him die.

Mrs Artis refused, but not without temptation.

"At one point, about six weeks from the end, he asked, `please help me, this isn't right'," she said.

"And I would have, except, in everyone's eyes it would have been murder.

"But for dad it would have been two words: `thank you'."

Mr Waddington died on May 6, 2011, aged 88.

He had been diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, a disease that saw him gradually lose control of his bowels.

"Every hour, of every day, for six months, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing my dad's blood and shit," Mrs Artis said.

"He was so ashamed of what I had to do for him - any dignity or self esteem he had was completely destroyed.

"This was a proud man, a gentleman, who had to wear nappies."

Mr Waddington had already undergone two operations by the time Joyce, his wife of 60 years, died in 2008.

By the end of 2010 he needed constant care from Mrs Artis and her husband Peter.

Mrs Artis said attending to her father's bowel movements was a constant job, as was administering morphine for his pain.

"He was in obvious physical and emotional agony for months, you could see it in his eyes," Mrs Artis said.

"It was unbearable to watch, but nothing compared to what he would have been feeling.

"In the end ... it was a relief to see him pass away, to be at peace."

Legislation will be debated in state parliament this week proposing to allow a person in persistent, non- relievable and intolerable pain to end their life within 10 days.

The option would only exist for Tasmanian residents and those able to give informed consent - ruling out patients with severe dementia.

The issue has been a source of controversy, with anti-euthanasia groups fearing no safeguards will be enough to prevent abuse of vulnerable sick people.

But Margaret Singh of Dying with Dignity Tasmania said the laws would apply to the 5 per cent whose suffering could not be relieved through palliative care - about eight or nine people a year.

Mrs Artis said her father was someone who could have benefited from voluntary euthanasia.

"I understand people's reservations, but I feel that people have no right to comment unless they have lived through a similar situation," she said.

"Euthanasia certainly isn't for people who decide to die on a whim, or who are pressured into it.

"But I would never wish what happened to my dad on my worst enemy."

Email adruce@fairfaxmedia. com.au or Twitter @AlexDruce1987


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