Australia

Tributes flow for firefighter Troy Thornton after his death at Swiss euthanasia clinic

Troy with his wife in Switzerland. Source: Supplied

Tributes are pouring in for Troy Thornton who died at a Swiss euthanasia clinic late on Friday.

Friends and family have remembered Troy Thornton as "an exceptional firefighter and friend to us all". 

The firefighter of nearly 30 years died at a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland at 11.30am local Basel time (late Friday evening AEDT).

His wife was beside him, holding his hand as he listened to one of his favourite songs, Sailing by Christopher Cross.

"No more words. I'm going now," were his final remarks.

Troy Thornton has chose to end his life in Switzerland after suffering from a little known neurodegenerative disease.
Troy Thornton has chose to end his life in Switzerland after suffering from a little known neurodegenerative disease.
Facebook

The Melbourne father arrived in Switzerland a week ago, having said his goodbyes to his son Jack, 17, and daughter Laura, 14.

He chose the same euthanasia clinic as Australian scientist David Goodall, who ended his life last year. Being able to choose what was right for him was important.

“I’m doing it my way, in my own time,” he told SBS News this week.

“Be happy for me; I’ve had a great innings. I’ve been fed, housed, educated, travelled, had a great career, with a family and lots of friends."

Vexed issue of euthanasia in Australia

He said he carefully considered his options and said he would have preferred to have passed away in Melbourne, surrounded by his entire family.

However, Victoria's voluntary assisted dying laws - which come into effect in June - do not allow for non-terminal cases.

And thus his condition - Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) - does not come under what is permissible at law. Even though there is no cure for the disease.

Troy Thornton spent nearly 30 years working as a firefighter.
Troy Thornton spent nearly 30 years working as a firefighter.
Supplied

As a firefighter, witnessing the loss of life firsthand, he said the decision to attend a euthanasia clinic was taken lightly, but only because his quality was so severely affected.

Bladder function, eating, walking, talking has sharply deteriorated.

He told SBS News his decision to share his story was made to campaign for more legal options for people wanting to end their life in Australia.

'Rest In Peace my Boy'

Tributes for Mr Thornton were led by his mother Barbara Spencer, who responded to a Facebook post by the Mornington Fire Brigade. 

"To my beautiful son Troy, I feel so proud of you and all you have achieved not only in your working life but a wonderful family man," she said. 

"My heart aches for you today I am sending my love and hope you feel it in your heart my arms are wrapped around you they will be as you take your final journey. Rest In Peace my Boy. I love you and will carry you in my heart forever." 

His former station also paid its respects on Facebook, saying staff were "sad to hear" Mr Thornton's passing.

"Langwarrin Brigade worked closely with Troy when he was stationed at Frankston and then as Officer in Charge at Mornington," the post said.

"Whilst the circumstances around his passing are devastating we understand why he took the steps he did."

Mr Thornton said he and his family have had a lot of time to come to terms with his decision.

He urged Australian voters to tell their politicians what they want when it comes to end of life choices.

"When it's our life, we should have control. We should be able to choose if we are of sound mind. That's what I'd like to say."

Some of his former colleagues also gathered at Mornington Fire Station on Friday night for a vigil. 

"It just felt important to some of us that we needed to gather together at roughly the time we knew Troy was going to pass," senior station officer Simon Mildren told SBS News. 

"We just had a really quiet night together just in memory of Troy, and just recalled some experiences together of our time with Troy over the years and what they meant to us." 

The firefighter is being remembered by colleagues as a hard worker who gave his all. 

"Troy was very well regarded," officer Mildren said.

"He had a fantastic career and was a very popular person, and well respected. 

"He gave so much to other people and was committed to his work."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline 24 hours a day online and on 13 11 14. Other services include the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline (for people aged five to 25) on 1800 55 1800.

Those looking for support with MSA can contact the Multiple System Atrophy Trust (UK) and The MSA Coalition (US). 

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