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Fri, 30 Apr, 2021

“He taught me unconditional love”: Terminally ill teen films message before ending his own life

“He taught me unconditional love”: Terminally ill teen films message before ending his own life

The heartbroken parents of a terminally ill teenager who took his own life in front of them are on a mission to get voluntary euthanasia introduced nationwide after the traumatic experience.

Rhys Habermann pleaded for his hardworking parents to be spared the consequences of his decision in a devastating video that was handed over to the police and ABC's 7.30 program.

The 19-year-old told the camera he wanted the right to die peacefully.

"I believe in my right to die by my own choosing. This is tough for everybody but I refuse to go through palliative care, after experiencing a little bit of it this last week," he said.

"It's more painful than I could have ever imagined."

His parents, Brett and Liz Habermann, from Wuddina, a small country town in South Australia, struggled with their son's decision for months.

18 months before he passed on January 11. 2017, he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a bone cancer that began in his hip but spread to his shoulders, ribs, spine, skull and lungs.

"All Rhys wanted to do was continue with his Year 12 studies. The doctor said, 'Forget Year 12 mate, you need to concentrate on just staying alive'," Mr Habermann told the program.

"It was terrible, after taking him home from chemo and just listening to him in his room at the flat we were using, just continuously vomiting."

When it was revealed that his diagnosis was terminal, Rhys spoke to his parents about ending his own life rather than going through palliative care.

He wanted to do it alone in a motel room so as not to potentially incriminate his parents. But they refused to allow it, telling Rhys he needed to be at home.

"And he said, 'but you could go to jail' and it's like 'so be it, whatever'. And with that he taught me unconditional love, to be there with him," Ms Habermann said.

"Rhys was really worried about what would happen afterwards. That's why he was adamant we shouldn't have been there, but there's no way in hell we weren't going to be there.

"He spent the last 18 months of his life finding the best way to die that wasn't going to totally ruin us."

In order to protect his family as much as he possibly could, Rhys asked his parents to film him from his bed.

Within hours of Rhys' death, police had arrived and declared the home a crime scene.

Officers spent 12 hours rummaging through Rhys' room, laptop, phone and personal affects. It took a further 18 months to clear his parents of any wrongdoing.

"It could have been so much kinder to all of us. He was dying anyway," Ms Habermann said.

"He felt so robbed that he didn't have a choice, that he was dying anyway. That choice was taken from him. We could've just all been in such a good place that we could have spent his final moments not being scared of what's going to happen."

The couple are now pleading with Australian state governments to introduce assisted dying laws to allow people with terminal illnesses the option to die on their own terms.

The mother-of-five is actively campaigning for sweeping changes to current laws.

"It is their choice. It is voluntary. It is peaceful. It is time South Australian politicians (who seem to think they are God) show these people compassion and pass this Bill," she said earlier this month on the matter.

"Apparently it needs to be accepted as a part of life that some people will suffer intolerable pain as they are dying and we have no right to 'kill' them off.

"The passing of this Bill in SA won't help my son but I’m still doing this for you Rhys - you deserved so much more than the crap hand life threw at you."

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