Many people have never experienced the bad death of a loved one and find it hard to empathise or understand the need for a law change. Your stories are imperative to our awareness campaign as well as the legal battle that lies ahead.

Anyone may contribute to this section and we encourage you to share your own story if you feel so inclined by completing the Contact Form provided or by writing to lee@dignitysa.org. Should you wish to remain anonymous, please indicate this on either the form or in your email to Lee.

The stories below are pure – and also sad – evidence that DignitySA is following the right path and, at the same time, inspires us to succeed!

Why we do what we do – the anonymous stories:

Anon Story #1Anon Story #2Anon Story #3Anon Story #4Anon Story #5Anon Story #6Anon Story #7Anon Story #8Anon Story #9Anon Story #10Anon Story #11Anon Story #12
“Legalising Assisted Dying is clearly an enlightened step, yet there are a number of obstacles to it…

Probably the most consequential are religious types of objections. People think that God is the only one who can have that kind of authority over a person’s life, to the exclusion of even the person in question. This is of course nuts. Let’s look at the clearest cases, involving people that are terminally ill. Bear in mind that killing a person with the kinds of drugs we have now is an extremely simple matter. Death would be something like the experience of being put under general anesthesia. The doctor injects the drug into your IV and then asks you something like “Read any good books lately?” Then before you can reply it’s lights out and the next thing you know you are waking up hours later. The only difference with assisted dying is that you don’t wake up. But this is illegal just about everywhere in the world right now except Sweden as far as I know – so what do they do instead?

It’s strange the way people lie to themselves on this issue where responsibility is concerned. That is, the doctors (and I’m not blaming the doctors, for it is of course our politicians and the judiciary who are mostly to blame) withhold something very simple from the patients, a few cubic centimeters of a drug, in order that they won’t be liable, or morally responsible, or what have you, in the deaths of the patients. But what they will allow is the removal of life support or food and water. That is, the patient has the right to refuse treatment, but not to get help in dying. So what is the result? We end up with people dying drawn out, agonising deaths because they are so desperate to end their suffering that they have no other choice. So the doctors stand by while these people
starve to death or die of dehydration. While they shrivel up and dry out. While their lips crack and their eyes sink over the course of weeks or more. Can one imagine anything more macabre or insane?

When will mankind realise that it is only we who determine what is right and wrong? That nothing and nobody is looking over our shoulders from on high? We can execute other human beings and take their lives away forcefully and violently for the good of society and in the interest of imposing punishment on them, but we cannot spare others, guilty of nothing but approaching the ends of their lives, the pain of enduring wasting, lingering, painful deaths that tie the souls of their families and loved ones in knots? Not to mention that their life-savings are often depleted and go to the hospitals and insurance companies instead of to their adored and beloved families.

Look this one in the face people. Am I wrong to suspect that those with financial interests in these sorts of things might be the first to send out lobbyists to oppose legalising assisted dying? My grandma was forced to sell her car before she died to pay for medical expenses. They raped her as she lay dying. No, it is all absolute, unequivocal madness.

Something you need to understand is that people who are ready to die are beyond helping themselves. Part of the problem, however, is that those who are generally in positions to lobby for and change the laws are not in immediate danger of being harmed by them, or at least do not think they are. And let’s be honest, it’s a little morbid. The idea of a young, ambitious person who is full of life passionately championing the cause of assisted dying does not make much sense. Young people would prefer not to think about such things, but what everyone does not see is that those old people are you. You are them, it’s just a matter of time. It’s coming and if you don’t do something to protect yourselves from that horrible fate, it could very well be yours.

Once you are at a point where you need help dying, you are probably no longer prepared to single-handedly launch a years-long political crusade to legalise assisted dying. Old men diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a month to live don’t usually start letter-writing campaigns to their local congressmen. That time has passed for them. But when they need help the most, when they are finally face-to-face with the reality of dying horrible painful deaths, only then do they realise what has been waiting for them all along.”

“I was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia at the age of 7. Through the years of my life, I have experienced constant visits to the doctors. Hospitals, blood transfusions, medications and so on and so fourth.

My terminal illness has in some ways gotten better. I no longer need to go for blood transfusions. But my life for the past few years has become extremely difficult. I have begun facing multiple issues with my body. My life is a hell in which I cannot escape. My only joy is that of playing games on the computers and learning more about IT industry. However this has become greatly difficult to do as I now find myself in bed more often.. I would like to give you a long version of my life. But not in this email. Perhaps another one though.

I am at the point where I feel I do not wish to live anymore. The pain, the sickness, the weakness and other issues with my body have become too much for me. I wish to have the option of assisted suicide legal. For it is a great consideration of mine now. And for many reasons.

I do not wish to live a life like this if it continues to get worse. Please could you help me. If things get worse for me, I really cannot carry on anymore. It is too much to bare, and is absolute torture. I would not wish nor expect anybody to experience the things that I do.

I hope to hear from you soon.”

“Let me die in peace…

I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know the following:

Is there any way DignitySA, or any of its members, could provide guidance/ advice on how I could go about arranging for either a suicide-assisted death or euthanasia or either in SA or in any another country and what the related costs might be. Alternatively how I could end my life without actually bungling it.

I am heading for 70 with a past history of cancer. It seems this may have metastasised to another form of cancer or maybe a benign tumour which may require a major operation. I have come to the decision that there is no way I want further cancer treatment nor a major operation which I may not survive or which could mean a long and painful recovery – that’s if I can even afford it.

My circumstances are such that I am rapidly running out of money to live on and there is no-one to whom I can for any help. I am losing my physical strength quite quickly now and the only wish I have left is to die as quickly and gently as I can with whatever resources are left to me. (Basically what remains of my life savings). I am terrified of an agonising, dehumanising drawn-out death.

I have loved life greatly – and still do. I would like to die blessing life for the beauty and wonder it has brought to me, not cursing it for the agony it is causing me.

Thank you for all you and others are doing for people in similar positions to myself.

Blessings, Anonymous

“In early November 2013, my mom who still kept a perminent full time job, complained of not being able to breathe properly and after numerous visits to the doctor was given an asthma pump as it was thought that years of smoking or whatever had caused her lungs to be a little weakened. By December it was discovered that, after some X-rays were taken, that my mom had a lung half-way full of water and was immediately rushed to hospital to drain the lung of fluids and for further tests.

On 19 January 2014, I was with her at the specialist who confirmed our worst fears had not only come true, it was an advanced stage 4 lung cancer. Only a year earlier, we had to deal with Osteoporosis, and now this!

As I speak, in sitting at home with my mom, it is 1:35am exactly. She refuses to sleep, especially at night. Her worst fear is dying when no one is around to assist her. This was nearly a reality in a very expensive and private hospital. Throughout this time, I have seen my mom’s mental health, dignity and self-worth (everything that she’s worked her entire life for) been taken from her because of this cancer. Even before we had been diagnosed, I was aware of assisted suicide via media and movies. If life is a gift, then surely death should be a choice?

My mom becomes more confused and angry and sad and even more scared with each passing day as she refuses to be beaten, when all through her life she has struggled and succeeded to not only raise three children and take care of a household, but all of this with barely a standard 4 certificate. Did I say that she also ensures the bills are paid, her car is maintained, husband spoilt and that her house was paid off?

To me, my mom is nothing less than an inspiration, a blessing and an awesome friend to many!

Currently, I am pondering how to help her pass on to the next part of her soul’s journey. To see the embarrassed look in her eyes as I help to change her (dare I say diaper) is far more than she deserves. I would gladly pay any price to help her be remembered with all the dignity and respect she so rightly craves and deserves. She will turn 65 on 24 November, and since I’ve always been too much of a selfish person to ever get her a decent gift either for Christmas or any other special day of her life, maybe I could finally help her now. As she would always say when out having drinks with friends, ‘One for the road… and then I’m staying’.

She is now at home, once again, with a syringe driver thing. There is more than 2 litres of morphine here, some Adco-Alzam, and Ativan tablets. The morphine is only 20mg/5ml. Could you please direct me to a safe place which could allow us the correct dose of meds to take?”

“I have stage 4 breast cancer mets to my lungs, liver, and bones. I have wonderful meds to prevent pain but have been informed that the pain could become really severe and that I could lose the use of my legs from mets to vertebrae. I love life and enjoy every moment with my loved ones. I know life and death are in God’s hands.
I witnessed my mother’s struggle to die after a lengthy sickbed and wished that I could have assisted her to die with dignity!

I believe that even though God holds life and death in His hands, every person should have the right to assisted death when life becomes unbearable.

My children share this view. I pray that this campaign be successful and wish the campaigners all of the best.
God bless!”

“By way of introduction – I am Anonymous, a 59 year old South African male, suffering with motor neuron disease ‘ALS’. I am into the third year of this incurable disease. I have tried the only available experimental medication, ‘Aimspro’ without success. I don’t know of anybody who has improved on this. Simply put ‘ALS’ is a degenerative disease which kills the neurons in the muscles which results in the receptive nerves in the limbs not responding to brain nerve signals. In my case the ‘ALS’ started in my right foot and leg (dropfoot) and has degenerated into my left leg. I cannot walk or stand and rely on wheelchairs and battery operated scooters. The disease has started in my right arm and there is some degeneration in my tongue but I can fortunately still talk and swollow.

The final stage of ‘ALS’ will leave me paralysed but my brain will be fully functional – known as ‘Locked in Syndrome’. Eventually the muscles in my stomach will slow down and then stop – death by self suffocation. I am told very stressfull and very horrible.

I do not want to live through this stage and would like to know if your organisation will be able to offer any assistance. I also do not want to be put on any life support of any form. I have expressed this in writing and have given copies to my wife, two children and sister. They understand and support me in this. I have also attached a copy of confirmation of my condition from my neurologist, Doctor Anonymous. Doctor Anonymous originally diagnosed my condition.

I look forward to hearing from you and am happy to support your campaign.”

“Thank you for fighting this fight!

I wish my Mom in-law had been able to make the choice for dignity in death. Palliative care is terrible, and takes longer than what most people realize. She was comatose for over two weeks and for the two months before that she was in absolute agony with a very low quality of life. She couldn’t go to the toilet or do anything without physical help and she hated that.

She wanted to pass with dignity, but cancer and our laws robbed her of that. She even tried to will herself to die when her whole family was around her for the weekend and was upset when she woke up instead.

I’m certain she would have chosen assisted dying on that weekend if she had been able to and we all would have been happy for her to have that choice!”

“My father is going through this now, it’s horrific for everyone, every day he hates waking up and wants to go, it’s so unfair, we should be able to help him, this was his worst nightmare, feel so helpless. He’s in Australia so the laws are worse there.

It’s cruel, we are kind to animals.”

“I think it is your choice and your choice only to be assisted with death if you have a terminal illness. I watched and suffered with my family when it happened to my mom and sister. They both died the most horrific deaths, being able to do nothing but lie in bed suffering with pain and no dignity.

Well, now my time has come and there is no way that I want to go down that road. It took my mom eight years to die and in the last couple of years of her life she was just a bag of bones with skin and bedsores so large that if I put my two fists together it could fit into some of them. Plus your body starts rotting from the inside and it is really unpleasant to even be near them. Now I know this sounds harsh but facts are facts.

I do not want my little family that is still here to go through all that suffering again so PLEASE if there is a doctor in Johannesburg or someone that knows of one that helps please let me know.
Thank you.”

“My aunt passed away yesterday. She was in a hospice type facility, gently fading. Not comfortable really, but good enough.

Her doctor decided to admit her to hospital, back to ICU, tubes down her throat. She tried to pull these out, so they tied her arms to the bed. My sister saw her last with tears streaming down her face. She managed to last a few days longer, in misery.
How cruel.”

“It’s almost 17 months since my Mom passed away and there is not a week that passes by without me getting horrific nightmares about my mother’s last 6 months on earth.

While she was in a coma the last week there were three instances where she would cry out ‘Help’ and ‘Eina’… this terrifies me because I cannot begin to understand the amount of pain she must have had. I really try not to think of the painful memories, but as we all know that parents and children are the closest people to one’s heart and nobody deserves to see your loved one in so much pain… this will haunt me for the rest of my life…
Anonymous, hope something can be done.”

“I, Anonymous, 63yrs old, am suffering with a spastic colon (IBS) since 2007. My condition got worse in 2012. I have been to several gastrology surgeons and had blood tests, endoscopies, barium enema, colonoscopy and sonar. All tests proved negative, only blood test showed underactive thyroid.

Recently my condition worsened very bad. I went back to JHB General Hospital on 29 September 2014. The doctor, his name Dr Anonymous, had done all my tests, chased me out of the hospital stating nothing is wrong with me, I tried to explain to him my condition has worsened, but he did not listen.

My last visit was to another gastrology surgeon on 8 October 2014, he also could not find the reason for my suffering. He put me on strong pain killers, it is making me dizzy and weak. I was 75kg, now I am 40kg, all foods affect my tummy, my tummy twists, pokes, pricks like needles, spasms, cramps, and the pain is simply killing me, I can’t breathe sometimes.

I can’t drink water, even when I urinate and make a stool, I am in a lot of pain, my vagina and my rectum leaks the whole day, the gynaecologist says it is my stomach doing that, it is so awkward being that way, I walk very slow because I am falling very often. I am in agony 24/7. In fact it is getting worse by the day, and I am so frightened what is happening to my stomach, I am in terrible pain at the moment, so if there are any mistakes pls understand.

Please, I need help desperately, I can’t live like this anymore, cannot go to a private hospital as I am a pensioner, you have my cell no, should you need anything.”

3 thoughts on “Your Stories – told by people like you and me

  • 30 April 2015 at 19:33
    Permalink

    Abortion has been legalised and that is a decision made by the pregnant women over her unborn child. Girls as young as 12/13 years of age have the right to decide on having an abortion, why then is “assisted suicide” not legalised? There you have an adult making a decision over their own life which is at that time unbeatable.
    I’m so pro assisted suicide.

    Reply
  • 31 March 2015 at 23:31
    Permalink

    My family have a genetic predisposition to ALS. We were five woman, three died and one is currently ill. All died with the “Locked in Syndrome” where they were unable to move a finger or eyelid, while being totally compos mentus. In other word aware of suffocating until death. I am the last of the five and still healthy. My younger sister has begged me to provide her with assisted suicide to prevent the same from happening to her. The difficulty or rather the most difficult problem is the type of help to provide. Quietly going to sleep is preferred but how and with what to accomplish this without making a mistake. Could anybody help in this regard?

    Reply
    • 1 April 2015 at 08:37
      Permalink

      We are so very sorry to read this. How absolutely dreadful for you all. If your sister would like, we are able to make an urgent application to the High Court for the right to an assisted death for her. Our legal team work pro bono and it won’t cost anything other than disbursements (of about R5k). We could also try to help to raise these funds on your sister’s behalf if finances are a problem. Please feel free to write to me at lee@dignitysa.org for further advice or to phone me on 076 – 942 4477. Our thoughts are with you and yours.

      Reply

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