Claire Freeman (NZ)

Claire Freeman has been a tetraplegic since her neck was broken in a car accident at the age of 17. Following four failed suicide attempts, both a psychiatrist and a psychologist at a suicide outreach clinic suggested to Claire that she go overseas for assisted suicide. They saw only her disability and assumed that her life had little value. They validated her desire to die, instead of exploring the reasons behind her desire to end her life.

‘Assisted suicide legitimises death and legitimises suicide. And I pretty much had most people in my life on board with my decision to end my life overseas, because it was something that the law had permitted and that made it okay.’ For twenty years, and until only about five years ago, Claire was an ardent supporter of euthanasia and assisted suicide and wished these were legally available in New Zealand. ‘In hindsight,’ she explains, ‘I wanted assisted suicide because I wasn’t coping with my life. Now that I’ve put the support in place, I love my life.’