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Professor Lindy Willmott is dying to talk

Professor Lindy Willmott is a director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Techology and a Palliative Care Australia Board member. Having worked almost exclusively on laws that regulate the end of life for the past 15 years, she has often thought about the kind of experience she would want at the end of life.

She also has elderly parents who have had significant health issues over recent years. She has talked with them about death and dying.

“Those conversations have given me the opportunity to thank them for all they have done for me over the years, and let them know how much I appreciate the wonderful parents and grandparents they have been,” she says.

Below, Lindy answers questions from the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. For support in starting the discussion with your loved ones, download it from

If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?

It would be important to me to make sure nothing remained unsaid between me and my family and friends. I’m so very proud of my two daughters and my husband’s children. I would want them to know that and know how much I love them. And the same of course for my extended family.

Being a lawyer, I would also make sure that my affairs were in order – so there would be no additional practical burdens for my family once I’m gone.

Are there any pets that you would like to see or be with you, if this is possible?

Oh yes, our pets have been a really important part of our lives over the past decade. We have two dogs. Even as we plan to downsize from a house to an apartment (we are empty nesters), we will be making sure our furry friends come with us.

The dogs make us laugh every day. They are sensitive to their surroundings. I would want them to be with me and my family during my last days.

Would you prefer a quiet environment or do you prefer activity and chatter around you?

It is hard to know what I would want. But I think I would want to have my family and pets around me, carrying on with life. Fingers crossed we might even have grandchildren by then. Perhaps it would be good for them to see and understand dying, and witness the circle of life.

Would you like music to be playing and if so, what style or what music?

Over recent years my husband and I have put together a slideshow of family photos with some lively, happy music. We play it to the family at Christmas time. It’s a bit of an amateur hour, to be honest, but a nice record of the year and it gets a few laughs.

I sometimes play these when I’m away and feeling homesick – it makes me remember how important my family is. I think it might be nice to play them.

If possible would it be important to you to have time outside?

Yes. We are lucky enough to have a house up at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. Some of my fondest times are walking along the beach in the early mornings or at dusk with my husband and dogs (and with the kids when they come up). We sometimes stop for a coffee at a beautiful spot looking over the beach before heading back to the house. That might be something that I’d like do, if possible.

Would you prefer to be surrounded by lots of family and friends, or would you prefer one or two closest people to be with you?

If it wasn’t too difficult for my family, I would love them all to be there – not just for me, but for each other.

Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?

No. Religion has not been part of my life. I draw my strength from my family and friends.

Is there anyone particular you would like to see or talk to?

Well, if Barack Obama or Julia Gillard was available, that would be pretty fantastic, but failing that my wonderful family will do!

Is there anything else you can think of that you would like?

I would like to die at a time and place of my choosing, and be fully alert. I also want any pain controlled, if possible. I want the experience to be as positive as possible for me and for my family.

What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?

Well, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit with my job but also on vacation. So, without meaning to put pressure on any of our children, I would dearly love to see my children have children and to get to know my grandchildren.

How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?

I’m afraid I get emotional relatively easily, so completing this form did generate a few tears – but in a good way. It made me think about how fortunate I am to have had a good life with lots of opportunities. But more importantly, it was nice to reflect on the wonderful people in my life, and how lucky I have been to know and love and be loved by them.



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