A euthanasia advocate claims the death of a 23-year-old woman with a painful terminal illness shows the benefits of new voluntary assisted dying laws work – but he says more still needs to be done.
Brave Lily Thai ‘peacefully passed away’ after a years-long battle with autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) – a rare condition where a person’s body attacks their own nervous system – which left her unable to walk, drink or eat without being sick.
The South Australian used assisted dying laws, introduced in January this year, to end her life surrounded by loved ones at Laurel Hospice at the Flinders Medical Centre on June 21.
Doctor Philip Nitschke – who has been dubbed ‘Dr Death’ for his work in the controversial medical area – hopes Lily’s case will help ‘allay people’s concerns’ about assisted dying and ‘strengthen support for the laws’.
South Australian Lily Thai, 23, who was suffering from a terminal illness passed away after she decided to use assisted dying laws to end her life (pictured)
Doctor Philip Nitschke – who has been dubbed ‘Dr Death’ for his work in the controversial medical area – hopes Lily’s case will help ‘allay people’s concerns’ about assisted dying and ‘strengthen support for the laws’
‘The SA laws, they are functioning, as evidenced by Lily and I think most people will be pleased such legislation was in place so she could be helped,’ he told The Advertiser.
‘I note that of the 12 or so who have used the legislation, they had terminal cancer or degenerative neurological diseases and in all these cases it’s hard to find anyone who would not approve of the SA law.’
The former Adelaide-based doctor, who now lives in the Netherlands, believes the laws have not changed older people’s desire to end their life with the help of state legislation.
Dr Nitschke said older people want to have control over their own death without having to seek permission from health authorities as stipulated through state laws.
‘I see no reduction in the common sentiment among the elderly that they should be the ones who make the decision, and that this should not be controlled by restrictive legislative process,’ Dr Nitschke said.
‘Many elderly will continue to seek and occasionally use their own lethal drugs, or plan a final trip to Switzerland, the one place in the world where receiving any assistance is not controlled by the medical profession.’
South Australia has safeguards in place for voluntary assisted dying which requires an individual make three requests and be assessed by two medical practitioners before their process can begin.
Since the age of 17, Lily’s debilitating illness had affected her quality of life, leaving her bedridden and unable to move
Lily’s last days were spent surrounded by friends and family in hospice before she died after doctors administered a fast-acting IV medication.
In a death notice placed in the Adelaide Advertiser, her family announced Lily had ‘passed away peacefully’.
‘Much loved daughter of Kate and Le,’ the notice read.
‘Beloved granddaughter, niece and cousin.
‘Treasured friend to many.
‘You may have gone from our sight but you are never gone from our hearts.’
Lily was the daughter of high flying culinary couple Le Tu Thai and Kate Sparrow.
Mr Thai is a Vietnamese refugee who became one of Adelaide’s most respected chefs.
He and his partner Kate gained acclaim through their Nediz Tu restaurant before Mr Thai later took over the kitchen at the city’s famous Bridgewater Mill restaurant.
In a death notice, her family announced the young South Australia had ‘passed away peacefully’ at Laurel Hospice at the Flinders Medical Centre last Wednesday, June 21
Ambulance officer Danika Pederzolli recently took Lily out to the beach, with a heartwarming snap showing the pair sitting in the back of an open ambulance while enjoying the sight of the ocean and some McDonald’s fries
Their daughter had suffered ‘excruciating’ pain from the rare autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) condition.
Since the age of 17, Lily’s debilitating illnesses had affected her quality of life, leaving her bedridden and unable to move.
She was receiving palliative care at the Laurel Hospice in the weeks before her death.
Lily had been not well enough to go outside in her final days and instead would remain in her bed while being comforted by her friends and family.
One person who’ had been by Lily’s side was her close friend and ambulance officer Danika Pederzolli, 28.
Ms Pederzolli recently took Lily out to the beach, with a heartwarming snap showing the pair sitting in the back of an open ambulance while enjoying the sight of the ocean and some McDonald’s fries.
Ms Pederzolli, who met Lily through a St John’s Ambulance cadet program, said she would remember her close friend as having a ‘vibrant attitude, positive and warm presence’.
‘She’s such a positive and warm presence in your life and (such a) smart person,’ she told the publication.
‘She was just so happy, and she’s still like that now, she’s no different.’
She described Lily as ‘sunshine in human form’ and wrote her a heartfelt note that she gifted to her along with a teddy bear.
Lily also shared a friendship with fellow AAG patient Annaliese Holland, 23.
Lily (right) also shared a friendship with fellow AAG patient Annaliese Hollan (right) with the pair sharing stories about the disease in the hopes of spreading awareness
The pair wanted to raise awareness about the rare disease and shared their stories in the hopes it would lead to symptoms of other AAG patients being diagnosed sooner.
Lily said her experience talking about AAG had been incredible with several people reaching out to show their support.
‘Lots of people (who) I haven’t spoken to in a long time (have reached out), which has been absolutely beautiful,’ she said.
The medicine used to end Lily’s life under new assisted dying laws in South Australia was administered using an IV drip with the 23-year-old passing within 10 seconds.
What is autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy?
Autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your autonomic nervous system by mistake.
The autonomic nervous system is part of your peripheral nervous system. It controls specific involuntary body processes, such as your breathing, blood pressure or heart rate.
AAG is a type of autonomic neuropathy or dysautonomia. Autonomic neuropathies and dysautonomias are disorders of your autonomic nervous system.
Source: The Cleveland Clinic