Compassion and respect

Robert Cordover

Robert Cordover

5101632-1x1-700x700When Robert Cordover died his family was instructed to destroy his writings.

He left instructions he was not to be buried according to his faith, but was to be cremated so there was no chance his body could be exhumed. There was to be no ceremony as it would prolong the time before he was cremated.

Mr Cordover made these requests to protect his family from his death.

At the end of 2008 Mr Cordover was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

“His mother had died of motor neurone disease so he knew exactly what was going to happen,” Mr Cordover’s wife Nica said.

As they left the neurologist’s office following the diagnosis, Mr Cordover raised the idea he may not want to endure the entire disease cycle.

As he faced this daunting diagnosis, Mrs Cordover said her husband was alienated and marginalised by the fact no one would speak to him about his end of life concerns.

“No doctor would talk to him about the thing that was most on his mind, which was having an easier death than that which motor neurone disease was going to leave him,” Mrs Cordover said.

“Doctors are too terrified for fear that they will lose their license for advising a suicide that they will not talk to you.”

So, aware of the limited time he had before his body failed him, Mr Cordover began to research how he could end his life when the time came.

“He spent the first three months after his diagnosis thinking about this, every day he sat at his computer researching it,” Mrs Cordover said.

“But that was a time that should have been spent having fun while he could still manage to.”

As he lost more and more muscle strength and control, he began considering any way he could successfully end his life.

“He suggested that we take him out to sea and abandon him, or take him out to the desert or bush and leave him there because these were the only options that were available to him,” Mrs Cordover said.

Finally, they flew to Melbourne where Mr Cordover met with Dr Rodney Syme.

He gave my husband the best palliation of anyone because he in fact allowed my husband to gain control of his own passing.- Nica Cordover

“He gave my husband the best palliation of anyone because he in fact allowed my husband to gain control of his own passing, which showed a great deal of courage on Dr Syme’s part but also a great deal of respect for my husband,” Mrs Cordover said.

In 2009, Mr Cordover ended his life peacefully with the aid of a euthanasia drug.

Seven years on, Mrs Cordover still lives wondering if she could even now be prosecuted with assisting her husband’s suicide.

“I have in fact had one lady publicly call for the police to investigate me with assisting a suicide,” Mrs Cordover said.

I have in fact had one lady publicly call for the police to investigate me with assisting a suicide.- Nica Cordover

The police have enquired into Mr Cordover’s death. During the enquiry they contacted the Cordover’s general practitioner, who subsequently took the family off his books saying he would no longer see them.

“If doctors feel that they’re vulnerable in any way then they don’t want a part of any of it,” Mrs Cordover said.

“If you don’t have a law for voluntary euthanasia then there is no oversight; doctors feel threatened, families feel threatened, the whole thing goes under the radar and who knows what goes on.”

Mrs Cordover believes an assisted dying bill would allow people the choice to say, ‘enough’s enough’, a right she believes should be respected.

“[Anti-euthanasia advocates] have said, ‘These people just need to be loved more, and we need to care for them more’,” Mrs Cordover said.

“I really do take objection to that. To imply that we didn’t love my husband enough and we allowed him to die because we didn’t love him, I think it’s quite the opposite.”

The passing of an assisted dying bill would finally lift the threat of litigation from the shoulders of Mrs Cordover.

Mrs Cordover said, “It would relieve me of knowing that there are people suffering appallingly.”

By Piia Wirsu, published in The Examiner, 4 Dec 2016.

In this video, Robert Cordover is able to tell his story as read by his wife, Nica.  For him, his end of life was “torture”.  A voluntary assisted dying law – like the new Tasmanian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016 – would have allowed him and his doctor to end that suffering through a legal assisted death at a time of his choosing and with his family with him, without months of anxiety and the risk of prosecution for those involved.


Dying with Dignity Tasmania

P O Box 1022,
Sandy Bay,
Tas 7006,

Tel. 0450 545167

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