Compassion and respect

Joan Fitz-Nead

Joan Fitz-Nead

Joan Fitz-NeadJoan Fitz-Nead has fiercely enjoyed life. But, she knows a time will come when she will decide to end it.

“Little by little those things that allow you to enjoy life, especially if you enjoyed life, disappear.”

For years she has been seeing her body crumble around her due to spinal disintegration. It has left her in chronic, debilitating pain.

“That is the thing that is so difficult … you just know it’s not going to get better it’s only going to get worse,” she said.

Ms Fitz-Nead’s condition is irreversible, and there are limited treatment options. She has already undergone surgery and has two rods and six screws in her lumbar.

“Even sitting is difficult because it’s never comfortable, and I’m not going to get into a bean bag at my age it’d be an absolutely disgusting sight,” Ms Fitz-Nead said.

She is now simply trying to manage the pain with medication.

As her pain medication has increased, Ms Fitz-Nead has struggled to find medicines whose side effects don’t impact too heavily on her day-to-day quality of life.

At 84, Ms Fitz-Nead is still full of humor, has a sharp wit and is clearly highly intelligent. In her life she has been an active community member, peace activist, nurse and in 2005 she was inducted into the Tasmanian honor roll of women.

She will closely watch the outcome of the assisted dying bill, to be introduced into Tasmanian parliament next year.

For her it is the difference between being empowered to go when it is right for her, in a safe and sure manner; or, to envisage some other manner, which may not be fail-safe, alone.

Someone who has always been independent and competent, Ms Fitz-Nead is frustrated with peoples’ reaction to her decision to end her life when the time is right.

“An awful lot of people say, ‘Joan that’s very selfish, how do you know that that’s what you want to do?’ now that is hugely insulting … in a way to say do you really know what you’re doing?” Ms Fitz-Nead said.

“People don’t see that I know and I am sure I will know when it is the right time to take it (her life) for me; because it is for me, it’s not for friends or rellies.”

Ms Fitz-Nead said the passing of the bill would be “bliss, absolute bliss”.

“I know the degeneration will continue, the pain will become greater, it just empowers me to say, ‘Right that’s it’, and I think the ability to make that decision because it’s so personal. I’m not taking anyone else’s life,” she said.

Ms Fitz-Nead is determined she will die when she decides, regardless of the outcome in the Tasmanian parliament.

“Absolutely, and in the near future,” she said.”

By Piia Wirsu, Published in The Examiner, 4 Dec 2016.

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