A woman whose terminally ill husband chose suicide over a prolonged painful death is urging New Zealanders to allow people the option to die with dignity. …
Richard, Heather Gregory’s husband of 30 years and father to their five children, was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer at 58 years old.
He had lived with the slow-growing cancer for years, but in 2014 his health rapidly declined.
“The tumour exudes hormones, and it damaged his heart. He wasn’t getting enough oxygen; his body was breaking down,” Heather said.
“When it happened, it was very sudden and very severe.”
She said Richard was thin and she had to dress his weeping leg wounds in adult nappies every day. He had a bed sore on his back, and his personality had changed.
“He felt he was losing control. The day he died, he had a nap in the sun and when he went to push himself up, he couldn’t – he wasn’t strong enough.”
On that August night in 2014, Heather went off to her quiz night in her home town of Hastings.
But she had a bad feeling she couldn’t shake. She contacted her daughter at 8.30pm, and that’s when she heard the news.
Richard had taken his own life.
The fallout from Richard’s suicide was distressing. Two of their adult children were left traumatised after finding him, and the three who weren’t there felt displaced, Heather said.
“It was a devastating end to a very good life, and it could have been so much better.”
A terrible trauma for the family, because Richard felt he had no choice. If euthanasia had been legalised he could have talked to his family about stopping his suffering, and they could have had a proper goodbye.
Richard’s suffering was unbearable and there was little that could truly relieve it, Heather said.
Had euthanasia been an option, he would have taken it, she said.
“If this had been in place it would have changed the whole dynamics of the whole situation leading up to it, and the final moments, and the time afterwards.”
No other family should have to endure what this family did.