After decades of difficulties and depression, Claire Freeman made a major about turn on her wish to live and is now determined to save others’ lives.
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26 May, 2019
By Janet McIntyre
Claire is in a wheel chair after becoming a tetraplegic when she was 17. She’s made numerous attempts on her life and even made arrangements to go to Switzerland to be assisted to die, to the heartbreak of her family.
Now she’s trying to comfort her father Phill, a recent stroke victim who slurs his words and like his daughter, is unable to walk.
“It’s shitty right now, Dad, but it does get better.”
Claire tells us she’s worried. “He, I suspect, will take his life after three months. My only hope is that I can convince him that life is actually worth living.”
It’s an extraordinary statement from the 41-year-old who admits her own survival is a miracle. Only now she says, 24 years after the car crash that paralysed her, has she come to terms with her grief.
Decades of trying to live a “normal” life have brought her to acceptance. “I’m actually okay with not being okay.”
With her unique life experience she’s joining the debate about assisted dying in New Zealand. But now she’s on the other side of the fence.
“I know of people who will die, I can’t let that happen.”
Claire and her dad, both chair-bound, try to embrace as they contemplate life and death. Phill supports the proposed End of Life Choice Bill, Claire opposes it.
Having given up on her own life so many times, she’s not prepared to give up on her Dad’s – or the lives of others she believes are at risk.
“There is huge scope for vulnerable people to make that choice but a lot of the time that choice is dictated by a lack of support or a feeling of being a burden because we just don’t have the supports in place right now.”
Claire squeezes her father’s hand. “I think you’re going to recover quite a lot more than you think.”
“I don’t know,” says Phill. “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.”
This story is now available for viewing at the link below or at: www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/sunday/clips/live-and-let-live
Claire Freeman (Ngāpuhi) is a PhD student at AUT with a Masters in Health Science from Otago University. She is a disability advocate, social influencer, blogger and youth worker. Claire is a former euthanasia advocate but now speaks out against End of Life Choice Bill. She herself is a tetraplegic and multiple suicide survivor who, three years ago, was advised by her NZ psychiatrist and a psychologist to pursue assisted suicide or euthanasia overseas. She lives to tell the tale in a documentary (below) from #DefendNZ released Wednesday 3 April 2019.
Watch Claire’s #DefendNZ documentary in widescreen and read her complete story here.