Many of my Australian readers will recognise the provenance of this image and perhaps even the name of the man on the television screen.
The year was 1956 (before my time!). The image was the first Australian Television broadcast; the broadcaster was Bruce Gyngell. Gyngell helped set up the very first television station in Australia and is revered across the globe for his pioneering efforts, his vision and his creativity.
Gyngell died from complications of cancer in London in 2000. The then Prime Minister, John Howard, said of Gyngell that,"In a way, he probably contributed more to the industry than just about any other Australian."
Gyngell contracted brain cancer; his battle and his death were not easy. Recently his widow, Kathy, told her story about those difficult years to The Mail Online. Arguing, from experience, that euthanasia & assisted suicide should never become law, her appeal is directed squarely at the nine Supreme Court Judges currently hearing an appeal in the Nicklinson/Lamb case on assisted suicide.
On a bright summer’s day a few years ago, I picked up the phone to call the doctor out again.
My husband Bruce was bedridden and immobile. He had been battling brain cancer for more than a year.
Though he was unable to move, let alone lift himself or manage his day-to-day needs by himself, I was still caring for him at home, in our bedroom.
We had — often unreliable — daytime help. At night I managed alone.
That morning I’d realised Bruce had another infection that needed dealing with urgently.
I called our private doctor — the only person I could rely on to come to the house quickly.
When he arrived I left him with Bruce. It was then, over the intercom we’d installed so I could hear Bruce if he needed help, that I heard the doctor say: ‘Now Bruce, while I am here, is there anything else I can do for you?’
Next came the sound of Bruce’s voice. He could no longer really speak, but was trying to say something.
As I realised the words he was struggling to say, I froze. They were: ‘Help me die.’ I then heard the doctor’s gentle reply: ‘I can’t do that, I’m afraid, Bruce.’
Standing at the sink, I wept for Bruce and for myself. I felt his despair and helplessness to my core. I felt that my care had failed him.
But when the doctor came downstairs, his calm certainty gave me strength.
For, like him, I knew that helping my husband to die was not just inconceivable — it was wrong, horrible and immoral.
It was not right for me, the doctor or Bruce, the television executive who famously saved TV-am from bankruptcy in the Eighties, to make the decision to end his life.
Even had the law allowed it, I know every instinct in my body would have recoiled. I would have done my utmost to prevent it and to dissuade him or any doctor from attempting it.
So although his life dragged on in this difficult state for three more months and he became too ill for me to manage at home, it never occurred to me that his wish to die could or should have been met.
Today, I thank God that the choice to end Bruce’s life was not available to us, that we were protected by the law and there was no pressure on me to make an unbearably difficult decision.
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