I WANT TO DIE WITH DIGNITY
By MEL MARTIN
BARBARA doesn't want to crash her car into a tree or jump in front of a train, and she especially doesn't want a friend to find her hanging from the ceiling.
What she wants is to be able to die peacefully and with dignity in her own home ? soon ? and she can't understand why the government has a problem with that.
"I want to be able to choose when and how I die," Barbara said. "It's such an intrusion on our lives to say we have no right to die. I'm not asking them to die with me, why should they tell me I must live when I don't want to?"
It's not that Barbara is depressive.
It's the constant pain she is living in, and a determination never to become dependent.
"My body is no longer functioning and it can't be fixed," she said.
"I can hardly walk because of my arthritis, I breathe like an old locomotive because of my asthma, only 60 per cent of my pancreas is functioning, I've got age diabetes, blocked arteries, liver problems, and my digestive system is not functioning properly.
"I do not wish to become totally dependent. I am a widow with no children, and my stepson, nieces and nephew are far away and have their own lives to live.
"I won't let it come to full-time care. I want to say goodbye on my own terms."
But there won't be a 'peaceful pill' ? which Exit International advocates should be made automatically available to anyone over 80 years of age ? for Barbara, because assisted suicide is illegal in Australia.
So should she decide the day has come for her to die, she would have to suicide by whatever means she can find, alone, without the support of friends, family, or a doctor.
And to Barbara, that is not only abhorrent, it is illogical.
"The politicians are no longer led by their constituents, they are driven by their religious and personal beliefs," she said.
"We all must learn again that death is part of life, it is natural. Medically prolonging life at all costs is unnatural and terrible. I refuse to go like that.
"The ageing population in the western world and the overpopulation of the world in general should in fact encourage governments to legalise voluntary euthanasia, as the cost of aged care with good palliative care facilities is unaffordable."
Voluntary euthanasia is a complex issue that raises passionate emotions ? moral, ethical, religious and philosophical ? as well as legal and human rights issues.
And both sides of the debate will never agree, no matter what.
But Barbara is not asking the other side to agree with her, just to let her choose her own fate.
"It becomes a personal, religious and ethical debate, but it must be left to the individual," she said.
"I'm not depressed, I'm still having fun, but it's extremely difficult. It's too much pain, too much discomfort, too much hassle, and those who love me understand my wish.
"If I had a choice now, I would say to my doctor, 'it's time for me to go, give me the means of a final pill'.
"But he is not allowed to by law, so the final de- cision must be mine."