First patient uses voluntary assisted dying laws

Matt Woodley

5/08/2019 2:00:10 PM

The 61-year-old cancer patient died amongst family, listening to her favourite music.

Kerry Robertson with her daughters.
Jacqui Hicks, left, and Nicole Robertson, right, were at their mother Kerry Robertson’s bedside when she passed.

Details of the death, which occurred on 15 July in Bendigo, were released over the weekend by voluntary assisted dying advocacy group Go Gentle Australia.
Mother of two Kerry Robertson was the first person to receive a permit under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act and also the first to see the process through to its end.
Ms Robertson was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, but despite treatment it metastasised into her bones, lungs and brain. She stopped chemotherapy in March after the disease had also spread to her liver and the side effects became intolerable.
Chair of RACGP Victoria Dr Cameron Loy told newsGP the Act was introduced to give patients such as Ms Robertson options at the end of their lives, and that reports of her passing indicate it was a ‘good’ death.
It is totally expected that there will be patients who take up this option, as well as patients who want nothing to do with this option,’ he said.
‘Ms Robertson’s family describe a death on her terms and in the way she chose. All of the requirements in the law will have been met and they are extensive. This was Ms Robertson’s choice and Victoria has that choice available.’
The assisted dying process took 26 days to complete and Ms Robertson took the medication on the day it was dispensed by the state-wide pharmacy. Her daughter Nicole revealed Ms Robertson made her first request to access the scheme on the same day that legislation came into effect and that she had always known what she wanted.
‘She left this world with courage and grace, knowing how much she is loved. That was the greatest part, knowing that we did everything we could to make her happy in life and comfortable in death,’ she said.
‘It is the most compassionate, dignified and logical option for those suffering in the end stages of life.’
Ms Robertson’s other daughter, Jacqui Hicks, described her passing as a ‘beautiful, positive experience’ that was ‘the empowered death that she wanted’.
‘We were there with her; her favourite music was playing in the background and she was surrounded by love,’ Ms Hicks said.
‘It was quick, she was ready to go. Her body was failing her and she was in incredible pain. She’d been in pain for a long time.
‘Palliative care did their job as well as they could, but it had been a long battle. She was tired, the pain was intolerable and there was no quality of life left for her.’
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos thanked Ms Robertson’s family and friends for sharing her story and said the first use of the state’s voluntary assisted dying laws was ‘an historic moment’.
‘The Victorian Parliament legalised voluntary assisted dying so that Victorians with an insufferable, terminal and incurable illness can have a genuine and compassionate choice at the end of their lives,’ she said.
‘Today we honour her memory and her bravery, and we offer our sincere condolences to those who loved her.’
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board has already met to review Ms Robertson’s case and will also review all future deaths that occur as part of the scheme.

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DannyB   6/08/2019 7:29:55 AM


Dr Cho Oo Maung   6/08/2019 3:43:27 PM

Accepting the Nature would be better. Losing hope may be part of depression. If people know how to respect the Nature and choosing Natural Death by practicing Mindfulness would be better. This is the way practicing in 3rd world nations with no issue for centuries.

Peter Coleman   6/08/2019 5:18:36 PM

I speak love , forgiveness and healing and mercy to the family of this lady but I am shocked that the medical profession could be involved in helping someone to suicide rather than treat symptoms of physical and emotional distress. This is a tragic day for Australia and a big mistake. ‘You matter because you are. We will do everything we can to help you live until you die. ‘ quote from Cecily Saunders who started palliative care in UK. Shame on the politicians who voted for this law and shame on doctors who assisted in this premature killing. This life on earth is a gift and who knows what happens in this important time before death. I again call the Racgp to have nothing to do with this law. I believe this law is false compassion.
Yours faithfully , Peter Coleman

Margaret Sing   7/08/2019 2:06:30 PM

Thank you to the RACGP and to Dr Cameron Loy for your caring, fair, patient centred policy and response to Ms Robertson and her family. I know who I would want as my doctor if I were to be confronted with the extraordinarily difficult situation and decision experienced by Ms Robertson - and it certainly wouldn't be a callous, paternalistic, reality-denying one with no respect for my choices.

Dr Sean   7/08/2019 7:41:09 PM

Empowering and dignified is right. Such forward thinking from the Melbourne Govt. This needs nationwide rollout.

Peter Bradley   10/08/2019 10:33:20 AM

I'm sure Peter Coleman up there honestly and earnestly believes what he just said, but sadly, most of us I suspect would say he is honestly and earnestly wrong. Why..? Well, to quote just one line of his...
"This life on earth is a gift and who knows what happens in this important time before death".
In my, (and I'd say most) experience of death, and in 50 odd years I've been involved in quite a few, most folk pass away alone, in the dead of night, without any family there.

This woman was able to choose the time, the place and have family around, saying those important last things, and listening to her favourite music as she passed. How beautiful is that..? Especially when compared to eg my mother, who passed away alone, in a nursing home, at 0200, looking so wasted I could not even recognise my own mother when we got there, because, having flown over the Tasman to be there, were told to go home and get some rest, "because she will be like this for days."

Horst Herb   10/08/2019 1:19:30 PM

I am sure that one day we will generally view back in disgust at the barbaric times when the law still arrogantly took away the most important feature of personal autonomy - being able to decide for oneself when to end one's life, and being allowed to access professional help for this.

I cannot even begin to comprehend the ideological blindfolds some people must be enduring when they still object to d
voluntary assisted dying after reading such a beautiful and encouraging report.

Decide for yourself whatever you deem right, but don't you dare being so arrogant and selfish as to force your beliefs upon me.

Borhan Ahmed   10/08/2019 2:07:02 PM

Assisted Birth and Assisted Death, are these similar events of a physician’s life?
To my understanding, voluntary assisted death law is not against or violating “Declaration of Geneva “, so as a physician, I don’t see any problem with the law.