Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman at Christmas, 2017.
Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman at Christmas, 2017.

Newman: I was wrong, and I regret it

WE  all get things wrong on our journey in life but for me there is a matter I am particularly sad to have been wrong about. It involves my Mother, Jocelyn, who died almost 12 months ago after a long drawn out battle with Alzheimer's.

Over the course of this terrible disease we saw a charismatic and commanding woman change. The whip smart mind was lost, she became argumentative and aggressive. This then morphed into a state of bewilderment and her body wasted away like her mind.

 

Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman circa 1969 / 1970 taken when they lived in England.
Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman circa 1969 / 1970 taken when they lived in England.

 

Just prior to her death she was like a tiny bird - I could have picked her up and carried her with one arm if I had not been likely to injure her.

After 5 years in high care when the end came it was merciful, but it was certainly not dignified. The caring and wonderful staff at the nursing home did a tremendous job but her life was not living - it was an existence.

So why was I wrong?

Well - it was because her wishes were not respected - indeed they could not be respected because of the laws of our country.

And we all knew her views and her very clear wishes.

My sister and I had grown up with a Mother who was a ball of energy always working on projects and co-opting others to get involved. But in moments of reflection on her own father's death in 1983 from dementia she would say "if I ever get like that - shoot me".

"Yeh sure Mum - we're really going to do that "we would say.

 

Campbell Newman shares a laugh with his mother, former senator Jocelyn Newman during one of his election campaigns.
Campbell Newman shares a laugh with his mother, former senator Jocelyn Newman during one of his election campaigns.

 

She was also deeply religious.

While going through her personal papers my sister found notes and letters demonstrating Mum's unwavering faith in God.

However, in these personal records my sister also found articles and books about Voluntary Euthanasia.

But most poignant were handwritten notes, indeed a fragmented personal commentary that showed she knew she was losing her faculties as the Alzheimers tightened its vice like grip.

She knew.

Over twenty years earlier in 1997 she had given a speech in the Federal Parliament opposing legislation introduced to overturn the NT Voluntary Euthanasia laws.

She said then - as a two-time cancer survivor:

"I have lived a long and an active life. I have twice gone under anaesthesia for serious surgery. Inevitably, each occasion was a matter of deep soul-searching and caused me to focus more than ever before on my own mortality. My continuing good health is a matter of great joy to me and to my family. I thank God for it and I hope it may long continue. But, if a day comes when I am facing a long and painful death and am still of the view that I hold today, I wish to have the right to knowingly choose the time of my death and the circumstances in which I die. Even more so, I passionately want to have that right for those I love."

 

Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman at Christmas, 2017.
Campbell Newman and his mum Jocelyn Newman at Christmas, 2017.

 

That's what she wanted when she was in full command of her faculties speaking to her political peers and the nation.

She clearly, unequivocally, did not want to suffer in the way that she did and yet the system doomed her to years of misery.

It wasn't dignified, it wasn't humane and it was against her wishes.

As Premier of this State I could have put the issue on the table during our time in office but I didn't.

I regret that.

In Queensland this year the Parliament will consider this emotionally charged and challenging issue. You can have your say on Voluntary Euthanasia and provide submissions to the Parliamentary Committee prior to the cut-off date of 15 April 2019.

I trust that all Members of Parliament will listen carefully to Queenslanders, giving this matter consideration away from normal politics and party positions determining the matter by a conscience vote.