Dr McPhee: Having choice enables me to embrace my life now

Dr McPhee: Having choice enables me to embrace my life now

Diagnosed at 59 with stage four Sezary syndrome, a rare form of cancer, Dr McPhee underwent several rounds of treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, and at one point suffered multiple organ failure. Half of all patients die within five years of diagnosis of Sezary Syndrome. For Dr McPhee, the prognosis may be worse, given the advanced stage of the disease.


In March, the 62-year-old, from Tweed on the NSW far north coast, contacted Melbourne-based physician Rodney Syme, who after an initial assessment has “provisionally” agreed to provide a drug, Nembutal, to Dr McPhee to use if he decides to end his life. Provision of the drug is a legal grey area and Dr McPhee’s wife and four adult children, who support his decision, may face police questioning in the aftermath. Dr Syme, who is vice-president of Dying With Dignity Victoria, tells Fairfax Media he assessed Dr McPhee as a suitable patient because “he faces an appalling death”.

Ultimately, Dr McPhee said, the difference that passage of the NSW bill into law would make is significant for someone in his situation. He would have the option of engaging with his local GP and dying at the time of his choice in the community he has lived in for 25 years.

Click for Sydney Morning Herald article 2 September 2017 ‘From doctor to patient, why Ian McPhee secured his ‘great comfort’

Click for Ballina Shire Advocate article 12 September 2017 ‘Anaesthetist calls for right to put himself out of pain’

Click for extracts from ABC Lateline program and transcript 25 July 2017 ‘From doctor to patient: How a medical professional faces a terminal illness’

Click for Sydney Morning Herald article by Dr Ian McPhee 2 February 2016 ‘Assisted dying: the difficult conversation we need to have’

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