A heroic firefighter and father-of-two from Victoria, Australia, who battled a degenerative disease has died in a Swiss euthanasia clinic, with his wife holding his hand.

Troy Thornton, 54, died by lethal injection at the clinic on Friday, in Basel, Switzerland, while his tearful wife Christine held his hand.

The couple's two teenage children stayed in Australia with the grandparents as Troy and Christine flew to Switzerland for their final goodbye.

Jack, 17, and Laura, 14, watched their dad pack last Sunday for his flight to Switzerland, knowing that would be the last time they would see him.


"The hardest thing I've ever had to do is say goodbye to them," the firefighter said before his death, according to the Daily Mail.

"It just destroyed me."

Thornton suffered from multiple system atrophy, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that was slowly killing him.

With no cure or any prospect of recovery, death from the disorder can take several years.

"Doctors have always told me that you don't die of it, you die with it. You can live for quite a few years, but ... you end up being a vegetable," he explained.

"After a while it attacks different systems, breathing, swallowing. I'd end up drowning in my own mucous, that's what happens."

"First you can't swim, then you can't run, walk, kick the footy with your children, you can't surf, drive; eventually it takes your career.

His children had to stay behind in Australia when he flew to Switzerland for his death. Photo / Facebook
His children had to stay behind in Australia when he flew to Switzerland for his death. Photo / Facebook

"Then you end up being a vegetable. It's a pretty grim way to go out."


He said every day was "like Groundhog Day", with endless bouts of nausea, vertigo and double vision.

Despite Victoria becoming the first Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying, the man did not qualify for it.

As a requirement, Thornton had to find two doctors willing to say with absolute certainty that he would die within 12 months. He could not find those doctors.

Switzerland was his only option, a heartbreaking decision that meant he had to die away from his family.

"I've just had enough, but unfortunately the laws, while they are a huge step in the right direction, they don't help me. They discount a lot of people."

He hoped Australian voters would change the laws to include everyone, including people like him.

"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."

Before his lethal injection, Thornton explained his family had had time to grieve together, in the four years since he'd been diagnosed.

He also said that, while it might sound like "a bit of a w**k", he thought he'd worked out the meaning of life, which was about two simple things:

"The first one's a no-brainer. We're here to propagate, to evolve the species, to reproduce. The second one is that you're here to inspire.

"Fundamentally, those two things underpin relationships and life is about people."