“I told him how much I loved him, and how I would make sure the kids would never forget him, that they would know how special they were to him," said Christine Thornton.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 19, 2019

With the first euthanasia law coming into effect in Australia today, an Australian woman, who was at a husband’s side when he was euthanised in Switzerland four months ago, has said there is two minutes between injection and death.

Christine Thornton said she lay beside her husband Troy and whispered into his ear as he died.

“To me, that was peace of mind and I just made sure I said everything I could possibly think of to say,” the mother-of-two and office manager from Victoria told AAP.

“I told him how much I loved him, and how I would make sure the kids would never forget him, that they would know how special they were to him.”

Christine said she had asked staff at the euthanasia unit in Switzerland to gently touch her on the head when they were certain Troy was gone.

She knew instinctively.

“You can feel the difference. I felt it. He was no longer there. It was the shell,” she told AAP.

Her husband left his job in charge of Country Fire Authority‘s Mornington Fire Bridge in Burwood East, Melbourne, Victoria in November 2017. He was 54 when he chose to die quickly, by lethal injection, rather than slowly from multiple system atrophy, an incurable and untreatable disease. If the disease is allowed to run its course, sufferers are reduced to a vegetative state.

Troy’s decision left Christine with their children Jack, 17 and Laura, 14.

She said there has been no second-guessing her husband’s decision to die. There has been a profound sense of comfort at the end of his suffering and the good nature of his death.

“I’m not questioning myself about whether it was the right thing. I know exactly how he was feeling,” Christine told AAP.

“He was scared of what was coming (from his disease), and it was coming over the hill very quickly.

“I’m at peace that I was able to fulfil Troy’s wishes. We had so many conversations about it, over so long. His whole thing was having the right to choose a good death over a bad one. To have dignity. He got that.”

Christine said her children are grateful their dad is not suffering any more.

“We had so many conversations leading up to this, we had family holidays, we spent so much time together and we were very open – always talking about it, checking in with each other to make sure we were all okay,” she said.

“The kids, they’ve seen and experienced things that kids shouldn’t have to.”

Needle and syringe

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Christine shared her story to coincide with the start of Victoria’s assisted dying laws that came into force today (local time). Victoria is the first state or territory to allow euthanasia.

Christine said Troy would be happy that Victoria has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to allow euthanasia in more than two decades.

The laws were too narrow to help him because he could not find two doctors who would say with certainty his degenerative disease would kill him within 12 months.

But Christine is adamant the Victorian legislation must be the start, and not the end, of a public conversation about the lack of end-of-life choices in Australia.

“Troy never thought the first laws would help everyone, but it’s a start,” she said.

“People who don’t believe in euthanasia will never have to choose it. But shouldn’t that option be there for people who do want a choice, who do want a good death.”

As of today, terminally ill Victorians can now legally ask their doctor for lethal drugs to take their own lives under the nation’s only euthanasia laws.

The state’s voluntary assisted dying scheme is expected to be used by about 150 people annually.

Under the scheme, terminally ill Victorian adults in intolerable pain and with less than six months to live, or 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases, and who meet 68 safeguards can request their doctor’s help in dying.

An independent review board and the coroner will keep track and monitor all deaths under the scheme.