Canadian migrant Judy met Cyclone Tracy Survivor Bob Dent in Adelaide in 1976. They married and remained in Adelaide until 1987. After four years of looking for gold in Central Victoria, not very successfully, they decided to move to Queensland going via Darwin so Bob could see how it had been restored after Cyclone Tracy.
Shortly after arriving in Darwin, Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Despite the best efforts of doctors, his health deteriorated. The pain was unbearable and Bob didn’t want to live his last days in agony. He discussed his feelings with Judy, who, though heartbroken, supported his decision to use the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act to end his suffering.
That legislation in1995 made the Northern Territory the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia. Dr Philip Nitschke was Bob’s after-hours doctor. He believed in the legislation and was willing to help Bob comply with all the requirements of the legislation. Nobody wanted to be the second doctor required but Dr Jon Wardill, who had seen Bob before he began to deteriorate and was appalled at his now wasted body, did sign.
The local psychiatrist was not willing to sign so a prominent specialist from Sydney flew up to assess Bob’s mental capability to make the decision he had made. He too signed the necessary documents.
A date was set. Bob had phoned his family members living interstate to say goodbye but not saying he knew the date of his death. The whole procedure was done in secret because the publicity would be overwhelming.
On the appointed day (22 September 1996), Dr Nitschke arrived with the equipment needed. He had devised a system where Bob was in control. The lethal drug would only be administered after Bob had answered yes to three questions posed by the laptop computer. After the third yes answer, the fluid began to flow into Bob’s vein and all signs of pain and distress left his face. He died peacefully holding Judy’s hand.
Judy, though devastated by the loss, found solace in the fact that Bob’s suffering had ended. She has continued advocating for the rights of terminally ill patients, ensuring that Bob’s experience would lead to greater understanding and acceptance of voluntary euthanasia.