Voluntary euthanasia: A plea from the heartSave
I thank the committee for the opportunity to make a personal submission on voluntary euthanasia which I believe to be one of the most critical issues facing society today.
I wish to speak on only one aspect - the need for provision of an end-of-life directive to be included in legislation allowing physician-assisted dying.
Why do I feel so strongly on this issue? My wife was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 48.
Two years later, I had to make arrangements for her to attend a day care centre so that I could continue working.
As her condition deteriorated I could no longer care for her and at the age of 52 she was admitted to a secure unit at Porirua Hospital.
She died aged 55 after falling and breaking a hip. She never recovered from the resulting replacement surgery.
We had been married 33 years, had three children and happily survived the stresses and strains of moving a family to and from five countries dictated by my work.
She was a strong, capable, independent and proud woman and her rapid decline with its consequent loss of dignity distressed her, me and our children enormously.
Her advanced Alzheimer's meant she was incontinent, unable to feed and dress herself, or recognise friends and family.
A pioneering female journalist and a feminist before the word became fashionable, she could no longer write, read, or take part in the social intercourse that made her a popular friend to hundreds of people we met around the world.
She spent her days in Porirua endlessly walking the confined corridors of the secure unit - it was a prison of necessity because while Alzheimer's patients pose no threat to society, they wander and have to be locked up for their own safety.
That was her "unbearable suffering" - a phrase you are hearing much about.
I knew Frances well and I know that she did not want to live in that condition and would have welcomed the ability to choose an end to her suffering had she retained her mental faculties.