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His choice to live or die

EXIT SUPPORTER: Goonellabah man Glen Aspinall, who suffers from a terminal illness, attended an Exit International information session presented in Lismore yesterday by voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke.
EXIT SUPPORTER: Goonellabah man Glen Aspinall, who suffers from a terminal illness, attended an Exit International information session presented in Lismore yesterday by voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke. Cathy Adams

GLEN ASPINALL has planned his death.

The terminally ill 58-year-old believes everyone has the right to choose when and how they want to go.

Which is why he keeps at home the means to take his own life.

Mr Aspinall, of Goonellabah, joined voluntary euthanasia group Exit International four years ago when he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a chronic bone marrow disease that stops the body from producing red blood cells.

He is kept alive by fortnightly blood transfusions, which in turn cause an iron overload in his system.

“If my condition was to decline slowly, I would have the option of picking some time when I felt that I was still able to end my life without the assistance of others,” he said.

Mr Aspinall watched his mother die slowly and painfully four years ago, and his father succumb to cancer 30 years ago.

“I wouldn't wish that on anybody,” he said.

Partly because of these experiences, he has little time for 'right-to-life' advocates.

“I think it's appalling these people can thrust their views on other people when we should all be free to live our own lives and choose our own method of ending it,” he said.

Mr Aspinall was one of about 50, mainly elderly, people who yesterday attended an Exit International public meeting and workshop at the Lismore Workers Sports Club.

Exit International founder and world-renowned voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke plotted the history of the movement, the legal context, and the high-profile suicides he assisted when the practice was briefly legalised in the Northern Territory in the mid-1990s.

After the meeting he invited people interested in learning about practical suicide measures to join Exit International and participate in a workshop.

His Lismore meeting was the second-last stop in a month-long tour of retirement areas on the NSW and Queensland coastlines.

“Most of our members are 75 to 80 years old,” Dr Nitschke said.

He didn't get depressed by talking constantly about death, and was opposed to a culture he describes as 'seriously death-denying'.

“You get quite inspired and uplifted by the elderly folk who see this as quite a practical approach,” he said.



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