Victoria's assisted dying law should include young people says Leneva father

LOVE: Leneva's Jason Cox, pictured in Albury, has welcomed Victoria's new assisted dying laws, but having watched his own daughter Madline, 17, die slowly believes the option should be open to young people. Picture: MARK JESSER
LOVE: Leneva's Jason Cox, pictured in Albury, has welcomed Victoria's new assisted dying laws, but having watched his own daughter Madline, 17, die slowly believes the option should be open to young people. Picture: MARK JESSER

A Border father who watched his teenage daughter die a prolonged and agonising death believes Victoria's new assisted dying laws should be extended to include young people.

Leneva's Jason Cox said his daughter Madline Cox-Edwards, 17, was born with cystic fibrosis and spent the last three weeks of her life suffering.

Every day, Mr Cox said, Madline was hunched over in a recliner, angled forward, her head resting on a towel on the table in front - all in an effort to breathe.

Eventually a pressure sore developed on her head.

"At that point we were under no illusions, she was going to die. It was just a matter of when," Mr Cox said.

"Her lung function was down to 12 per cent... she was on oxygen all the time, ultimately her body started shutting down."

From today, Victorians will be able to request to choose when and how they die - if they are aged over 18, have lived in Victoria for 12 months and two doctors have assessed that they are expected to die within six months from an incurable, advanced and progressive condition, disease or illness.

But Mr Cox believes the law should extend to allow young people, in conjunction with their parents, to make the decision to die.

"I understand people not wanting people to die, but they're going to die, the choice is between whether it ends sooner rather than later," he said.

"If she had a choice I think she would have finished it sooner... and we would have supported her, it was terrible."

Mr Cox said in the end Madline, who died in 2017 four months shy of her 18th birthday, had come to terms with her death.

He said having the option of assisted dying would have allowed Madline to chose when she died and to avoid the painful weeks waiting for the end.

"She was making her own choices from 12 or 13, making educated decisions," he said.

"Because of the situation she was in she grew up very quickly, often people under those circumstances are very mature."

Mr Cox said in the past he was more conservative with his views on assisted dying.

"Look, I probably have been sitting on that side at times but watching my daughter go through what she did made me go the other way," he said.

"As a parent having to watch your child suffer and go through what she went through just to breathe was terrible.

"I don't think you can make an informed decision unless you've been there and watched someone [suffer]."

In the end, Mr Cox said, Madline's weeks of prolonged, breathless suffering were alleviated not by the mercy of medicine, but by a blood clot to her heart.

  • If you are troubled by this report call Lifeline 13 11 14.
  • For more on assisted dying visit health.vic.gov.au