Over the years Exit has been involved in a variety of ways with many prominent deaths. Some of these people used Australia's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1996-97, others have travelled to Switzerland. Some have died natural deaths, others have taken matters into their own hands.
These are some of the many faces of Exit.
Max Bell drove his Holden Commodore taxi to Darwin in June 1996 to use the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act to die. Sixty-seven years old and suffering from stomach cancer, Max’s surgery had left him with constant nausea and vomiting.
Max was a mere shadow of his former self. Earlier in his life he had been a professional golfer, box and later a bodyguard around the darker streets of Sydney. He had decided to spend his retirement in Broken Hill.
Bob Dent was the first person to use the VE legislation of the Northern Territory and, as such, became the first person in the world to die from a legal, voluntary lethal injection. Very ill with prostate cancer, Bob said he'd had enough of his illness and wanted out.
Bob chose September 22 as the day he wanted to die. The day before he died, Bob penned, with wife Judy's help, a poignant letter to the nation's politicians.
Janet Mills was the second person to die using the Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act in the Northern Territory.
A resident of Sth Australia, Janet came to Darwin in December 1996. She had suffered for some 10 years froma rare disease known as Mycosis Fungoides. This is the same disease that the well known British actor - Paul Eddington - from 'Yes Minister' died the year before.
Shirley Nolan was one of Australia's most high profile sufferers of Parkinson's Disease. Shirley took her own life at her home in Adelaide in July 2002. Shirley is perhaps best known as the Founder of the bone marrow register that she established in 1974 - the Anthony Nolan Trust (named after her young son). For her work with the Trust, Shirley was presented to the Queen in 1992 and awarded an OBE in 1999.
Darwin woman Esther Wild qualified for, but narrowly missed, the opportunity to use the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act to die. The Kevin Andrews Bill overturned the law and prevented Esther for using the ROTI law.
Esther first contacted Exit in January 1997. She was dying of Carcenoid Syndrome, a rare form of bowel cancer. A nurse by training, Esther was under no illusions of the type of life (and death) that lay ahead.
Nancy Crick was sixty-nine years old when she died in May 2002, surrounded by twenty-one family and friends. In the last years of her life, Nancy suffered from bowel cancer and had undergone three operations in which most of her bowel had been removed. Prior to this she had been in good health and didn’t think twice about agreeing to accompany her friend to a free Rotary screening for bowel cancer.
Sandy Williamson was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) on that infamous day of 11 September 2001. Nine months later, on 23 July 2002 Sandy took her own life with an overdose of the barbiturate, Amytal.
MND is a cruel, and relentless neurological disease which gradually destroys the body’s muscle control, slowly paralysing the person and trapping an active mind. Premature death is inevitable, but the timing can vary greatly.
Lisette Nigot first made contact with Exit in 1999 during a workshop run in Perth. She talked to Exit Director Dr Philip Nitschke after the workshop and explained that she planned to end her life sometime before she turned 80. She explained that she was not sick and that illness played no part in her decision.
Over the next 3 years Dr Nitschke met with Lisette when he was in Perth and talked with her. He expected her to change her mind as her 80th birthday approached, but she did not. The arguments that resulted almost led to a breakdown of their relationship. In the end, Dr Nitschke accepted her position and assisted her in her choice.
Exit member, Steve Guest, died 26 July 2005 aged 58 years. Suffering from oesophageal cancer Steve came to national public attention when he made an impromptu phone call to 774 ABC radio Melbourne pleading to be allowed a "magic bullet"– "peaceful pill" so that he could end his suffering.
The Age newspaper reported his initial phone call as "a moving account of his suffering and his desire to die. He also attacked the "hypocrisy" of politicians who cited Christianity in the debate against euthanasia and abortion."
On 25 January 2007, 2 months short of his 80th birthday, Sydney doctor John Elliott became the 5th Australian to travel to the Dignitas service in Switzerland. Suffering from a cancer of the bone marrow, John was accompanied by Exit Director Dr Philip Nitschke, his wife Angelika Elliott and Exit's Executive Officer, Dr Fiona Stewart.
American by birth, John Elliott lived the last 20 years of his life in the Sydney eastern suburb of Rose Bay. The story of his trip to Zurich made front page news around Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald travelled with him to Dignitas especially to cover the story.
The stories of James Button and Kate Geraghty subsequently won Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism.
In 2007 Exit member Don Flounders from Victoria was diagnosed with mesothelioma. While he was well enough to travel, Don and his wife Iris wanted to make the trip overseas to obtain the drug that would provide him with a peaceful death, should he ever want that option at a later date. Don had little money to make the trip but Angy Belecciu, terminally ill with breast cancer and unable to travel herself, offered to help him.
In February 2008 Don and Iris undertook the arduous 15 hour flight to LA , travelling down to Tijuana where they purchased the drug Nembutal over the counter. On their return to Australia, Don gave one bottle of Nembutal to Angy Belecciu. Don spoke openly of his trip and the comfort he had derived from having obtained his own reliable means of a peaceful exit. As a result, both the Flounders and Angy had their homes raided by the Australian Federal police. The drugs were never found.
Angy Belecciu took her Nembutal and died peacefully in March 2009.
Don & Iris Flounders died peacefully together at their home almost 2 years later on 28 April 2011.
Caren Jenning was 74 when she was convicted of the manslaughter of her friend, former Qantas pilot Graeme Wylie. Seriously ill with breast cancer herself, after enduring a trial of some two months and determined not to die in jail, Caren drank a bottle of Nembutal she had smuggled back to Australia from Mexico some years earlier.
A caring, loving woman, Caren was a much valued member of Exit. Her death and the ordeal she was put through in the months immediately prior to her death were awful. She remains fondly in our hearts.
Angelique Flowers was only 30 years old when she died of a bowel cancer. Angelique used Youtube.com to appeal to the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to change the law and enable her to ask for assistance to die. He never replied.
Angelique also used Youtube.com to publicly appeal for a bottle of Nembutal. Angelique got her bottle of Nembutal but never had time to use it. She died suddenly of a bowel blockage in precisely the way she feared most, vomiting her own fecal matter.
Her death was traumatic and undignified. It was entirely unnecessary for it to have occured as it did. Angelique deserved better, as did her family members who were with her when she died.
Exit member, Chris Rossiter, made news around the world when his nursing home in Perth - Brightwater - sought declaratory relief in the Supreme Court of Western Australia resulting in establishing the right for Chris to stop food and fluids, should he so desire.
Chris spoke out in the media both before and after the court case. He was a strong advocate for Exit. Chris died of chest infection complications in late 2009. We remember him fondly.