'I've come to court . . . to ask you to assist me in having a peaceful, dignified death'
“There were a lot of tears shed and questions asked. But they see me and how my life has deteriorated . . . And they are very, very supportive”.
As the judges listened intently, lined along the hard bench with their hands in their laps, she told them she knew a woman with MS who had starved to death, who had died of hunger and thirst, she said. “That’s not what I want. I want to go peacefully in my own home, with the people I love around me.”
Palliative care is “not acceptable” to her. “I don’t want to be kept in a state whereby you’re being given ingestions of massive doses of painkillers that may alleviate the symptoms of pain but leave you in a comatose state. To be kept in a state of not being able to smell the flowers, or to see my beautiful garden or just see the changing of the seasons; that’s not acceptable to me to miss all that. I would be doing myself an injustice.”
She has no fear of death. “I am at peace with the world . . . I have arranged my funeral – a wicker coffin, jazz music to play and my life to be celebrated.” She had even asked that her coffin be transported to the crematorium in the back of a car, to spare expense.
She and her family discussed her method of assisted suicide “non-stop”, she said.
She had squarely confronted the methods of suicide available to her now in her paralysed state. “The only way that is left for me to die is with the use of gas. By this I mean the usage of gas through a face mask. I could assist myself, either by moving my head to initiate the flow of gas or by blowing into a tube that would release the gas . . . I know I would be able to do it. I have practised it in my mind over and over again . . .”
Or a doctor could put a cannula into her arm to pass poison into her veins, she said.“My physician has stated she wouldn’t kill me but that she would help if it were lawful . . .”
She would welcome the presence of an independent observer, she said. “We have nothing to hide . . .” After some 30 minutes, the questions ceased. None of the opposing counsel chose to cross-examine nor did the judges have any questions. As the courtroom emptied, the slow, agonising tasks were performed in reverse and the dignified little group moved slowly back to the van in the yard.