Mandurah man begs Parliamentary Committee on voluntary euthanasia after watching wife’s final years with dementia

Nigel Haines with wife Suzie in happier times.
Nigel Haines with wife Suzie in happier times.

SUZIE Haines was just 50 years old when she showed the first signs of dementia.

Last week, her husband Nigel begged a Parliamentary Committee investigating voluntary euthanasia in Perth to make it available to more than just people with a terminal illness.

The former Mandurah shopping centre executive watched his late wife suffer through Alzheimer’s for seven years and believes she should have been given the choice to end her life.

He claims WA’s future legislation focuses on people with terminal illness and is too narrow.

“You don’t have to be classed as terminal to be suffering,’’ he said.

In 2006, his wife asked him to help her not wake up in the morning.

“It was tragic and I felt so helpless.”

In his journal he wrote “I counted the number of sleeping pills but while there was enough for one, there certainly wasn’t enough for both of us and I couldn’t do that and carry on by myself.”

After a close friend died of cancer, he wrote in his journal that should he be diagnosed with a terminal disease, he would “check himself out”.

“Seeing Suzie sobbing her heart out, I can’t but think should I be helping her do likewise’’ he wrote.

Later she became very aggressive, her panic attacks increased and he was struggling to cope.

Carers were unable to handle her at home as she was going through a violent stage of the disease.

Usually that can be handled because the patient is elderly but Suzie Haines was very fit and strong and it caused major problems.

Eventually she was admitted to the secure wing of Fremantle Psychiatric Hospital.

Mr Haines was advised that if his wife was really unlucky, she could have another five years but more likely two or even 12 months.

But it was to be another five years before she passed away at Greenfields Aged Care Facility in May 2011 and for the last three she was in a vegetated state; “demeaning and sad to see”.

“If you have walked in my shoes, then I respect your views but please don’t tell me how to run my life,’’ is what he says to Right to Life advocates.

“How I leave will not affect you one iota.

“If you have not walked in my shoes, then you merely have an opinion without first-hand experience.”

He said the difference between right to life and pro-euthanasia was simple: one states a view that asks for a choice for themselves.

The other is forcing a view and an outcome on someone else regardless of their view and in many cases, forces them to die in pain and without dignity.

“Suzie was a strong believer in organ donation and the right to choose when to say goodbye to loved ones,’’ he said.

“Sadly, because of our selfish outdated laws she was unable to do either.”

The inquiry is expected to hand down a recommendation later this year.

Mr Haines has put an audio visual of the Parliamentary hearing on YouTube and written to every Member of Parliament in WA.

And he begged the State Government to have the strength to accommodate the wishes of individuals who want the right to choose when to say goodbye with dignity.

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