Let me die with dignity
Let me die with dignity

A 64-year-old Perth woman who is bedridden with multiple sclerosis has made an emotional plea to WA politicians to legalise euthanasia and allow people like her to die with dignity.

Behind the unremarkable facade of the western suburbs home she shares with her son, Barbara Harrison lives a life of nearly constant pain, confined to a bed that gives her a view of the garden and her flat screen television, but little else.

The nature of her illness has robbed the articulate mother of two of the ability to sit up unaided, let alone pursue the hobbies she once loved.

Having once hoped to die at Switzerland's Dignitas euthanasia clinic, Ms Harrison is planning to take her own life. She has spoken out in the hope her story might move politicians to reconsider their position on voluntary euthanasia.

"It's not that I'm depressed, I'm just fed up and frustrated," Ms Harrison told _The Weekend West _.

"I've had such a wonderful life, travelled widely, with glorious memories and now I have no control over my life whatsoever with much worry and anxiety. I am living in such despair.

"I want to go. I'm quite happy to go. I have no fear of death whatsoever. My one fear is, because I have spent the last 3½ years in bed, that I'll suffer a stroke or other medical disability and my wishes will evaporate with my physical or mental agility. If euthanasia was legal, I could spend more time alive without worrying that I must terminate my life as soon as possible before anything drastic happens."

Ms Harrison has lived with MS for more than three decades but says the deterioration of her condition in recent years has made life unbearable. Confined to the living room that was once the bustling centre of her family home, she relies on her 26-year-old son, a member of the Army Reserve who is studying for his masters degree, as her primary carer.

"All my loves . . . I loved nature, I love books, horseriding. Everything is now lost to me," she said. "I have to cope daily with double incontinence, gripping spasm and physical and nerve pain, to say the least."

As a member of Philip Nitschke's right-to-die group Exit International, Ms Harrison had planned to travel to Dignitas. However, difficulty in obtaining paperwork led to delays and this year she fractured her femur, making the trip impossible.

"I wanted to do it properly, to die in the company of friends and with dignity, I didn't want it to be 'suicide'," she said.

"The title (of Dignitas) says it all: it's dignity, it's just dignity."

The last attempt to introduce euthanasia legislation into WA, in 2010, was defeated on a conscience vote. For Ms Harrison, a political change of heart would come too late. But she hopes change will come in time to help others.

"As a mother I am satisfied I've done my job, we all have to die sometime," she said. "I've got one son who's just turned 29 and one who is 26. It's actually wonderful to be able to choose a time to die. I have my funeral arranged and have organised as much as I can do that my boys don't have to do a thing. You can't do that if you die suddenly or linger with dementia.

"If I could just go out in my garden and die, how lovely that would be. Please let's change the laws."

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline WA 13 11 14.

The West Australian

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