You may have heard about or even know people with advanced cancer who decide it would be best – for themselves and those close to them – if they sped up their death. Some people give up on living because they feel they are a burden on their family or that they have little support.

This is not necessarily the same as refusing treatment because you, and possibly your doctor feel it is futile and painfully prolonging the inevitable.

A desire to actively hasten death can be a sign that some sort of help or support is needed. This may include relief of physical symptoms, counselling for depression or more emotional support. It is common for someone who says they want to die to change their mind later.

The wish to die is a difficult matter for all concerned and needs to be handled sensitively by all those involved – including health professionals – and with your dignity in mind.


Fact

It is illegal in every state of Australia to help in speeding up a person's death (otherwise known as euthanasia or assisted suicide).

What may help

Talk to your Doctor

Many issues such as depression or simply the feeling that you can’t cope may lie behind a desire to die. Start by talking to your doctor, nurse or social worker who may then refer you to a more appropriate person for you to talk to.

Talk to others

Talking to someone who is in a similar situation may help. The Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you get in touch with appropriate support groups or individuals.

Seek professional advice

While the desire to die is a highly personal matter, you need to consider the implications – legal and otherwise – for those around you. Find a friend with legal knowledge, or even a trusted lawyer, you can talk to.

For more information

The Cancer Council Victoria has information on treatment decisions and voluntary euthanasia.


Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015