Cathy Henkel with her mother Laura and daughter Sam Lara. Laura Henkel will travel to Switzerland to fulfil her wish to die on her own terms.
Cathy Henkel with her mother Laura and daughter Sam Lara. Laura Henkel will travel to Switzerland to fulfil her wish to die on her own terms.

Meet the woman taking her mum overseas to die

A RENOWNED filmmaker never expected to take her mother travelling to Switzerland to die on her own terms, but that's where she is at this week.

Associate Professor Cathy Henkel (PhD) is the director, of the WA Screen Academy at Edith Cowan University, and she grew up on the Northern Rivers where she became a well-reputed film maker.

But this week she is back to the area to farewell her mother Laura and to take her to Basel in Switzerland to die.

Although she is not terminally ill, Laura suffers pain and deep exhaustion every day.

Cathy Henkel will be accompanying Laura, 90, from Ballina to Brisbane and then to Europe.

Her own daughter Sam Lara, Laura's granddaughter, will be with them too.

Cathy Henkel said her mother expressed her desire to die during a phone call more than two years ago.

"She called me and she complained she was in a lot of pain and she wanted to end her life," she said.

"Of course I was very conflicted and upset about that.

"She heard about it through the 104-year-old scientist David Goodall who did it in 2018, 'why don't I do that?' she said to me.

"She looked into it for 12 months, and over that time I have come to accept that this is what she wants."

Cathy Henkel said she has made peace with the fact her mother may be gone by next week.

"I think it's the best thing for her and even for us, we get the chance to be with her, she is not suffering, she is ready and she has total control," she said.

"It's never easy to lose a parent but this is possibly the best way to go through that."

Cathy Henkel said neither her mother nor her are doing anything illegal in Australia or in Switzerland.

"My mother is not doing anything illegal, we are going away and, of course, we have booked a return ticket for my mum in case anything changes, and mainly because you have to have a return ticket to enter Switzerland, but we are not doing anything illegal in either country, in Australia or in Switzerland.

"If we were to do this in Australia, it would not be legal, but travel to Switzerland is not illegal here."

Mrs Henkel said she is not an advocate for assisted dying.

"I am not advocating anything, and nor is my daughter," she said.

"The advocate in this story is my mother, she is a strong advocate for assisted dying, because she has experienced being 90 years old and knows what that feels like."

The three women are leaving Ballina today, and flying out of Australia tomorrow. Their trip will culminate in Laura's death at a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday, December 19.



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