Why A Mother-Of-Two Is Fighting For The Right To Die

Mother-of-two Tanya Battel is among those pushing for Queensland to pursue voluntary assisted dying laws.

Tanya Battel was in the middle of a terrifying wait for news when she began preparing a push for end-of-life reform in her home state.

The Brisbane mother-of-two has been living with terminal cancer for two years, and last week was told it may have spread.

“My anxiety levels are through the roof,” she told ten daily, as she awaits her blood results to find out where the cancer has spread. 

“What you deem good news after a terminal diagnosis just keeps changing. But last week, the news wasn’t good. My fear is the next round of treatment will be the harsh stuff when your quality of life deteriorates.”

Tanya Battel is pushing for Queensland to legalise voluntary assisted dying laws as she battles terminal cancer. Image: Supplied

Battel is part of a group of assisted dying advocates, from Dying with Dignity Queensland, who will on Monday afternoon lead a forum at Parliament House to demand urgent legislative reform.

She has always supported euthanasia but it became personal when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer 23 years ago, aged 31.

“It was an aggressive grade-three breast cancer but it was small. I had a lumpectomy and radiation and got the all-clear,” she said.

Five years later, the cancer came back in the same breast and she underwent a mastectomy.

For the next 17 years, Battel was fine -- until pain around her ribs revealed a tumour in her right lung.

“I had seen both my parents die horrific deaths through cancer where you’re left with memories you wish you didn’t have,” she said.

“And then at that point, two years ago, I was told there wasn’t a cure for my own, that all they could do was manage the spread.

Without changes to legislation in Queensland, the last state to debate laws around euthanasia, Battel is considering her options.

“For me, it’s about quality of life, and I will know when that changes. So you have to look at options. You can travel overseas or the other option is to take matters into your own hands,” she said.

“Cancer, or any illness, that brings about pain and a lack of quality of life -- is a lonely journey. You don’t want to find at the end that you’re lonely as well,” she said.

Victorian members react as an assisted dying bill passed in October last year. Image: AAP

The mother of two hopes Monday’s forum, to which 93 sitting members have been invited, will be a chance for politicians to “open their minds” to the experiences of everyday Australians.

"I have always struggled with the fact that politicians are going to make a decision about my situation," she said.

"I can't begin to describe this journey -- and I'm not alone. Until you're sitting in that space, you can't understand it."

Last year, Victoria went through a lengthy inquiry process to pass laws allowing voluntary euthanasia under certain circumstances, while an inquiry is also underway in Western Australia.

Queensland Labor has previously said the issue wasn’t on the agenda for this term of government, as it focused on abortion reform.

But the issue has backing from former Brisbane mayor, the late Clem Jones, who left a $5 million legacy to advocate for right-to-die legislation.

Clem Jones Trust Chairman David Muir said it was not a “government versus opposition issue."

“It is a matter of widespread community concern requiring the deepest consideration … we hope this will be the tipping point,” he said.

The late Clem Jones, former Brisbane mayor, was an advocate for right-to-die legislation. Image: AAP

“The starting point must be a public inquiry by Parliament to canvas views and expert evidence.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has shown a willingness to consider a parliamentary inquiry.

Anti-euthanasia campaign group Cherish Life has no objection to the issue being discussed but does not believe it should be considered by the government.

“I do appreciate that there are many views, and I respect those views. But this is about the right to choose, and when you have that right, you can then enjoy the time you have,” Battel said.

“Today will be a start -- but it is a long road ahead.”