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'Our daughter took her own life and we are so proud of her'

STAYING STRONG: Simon and Sue Wischer at their home in Peregian.

'Our daughter took her own life and we are so proud of her'

JUST days before her 50th birthday last month, Julie Hunter took her own life.

She had been sick and in constant pain for many years and had already failed with a suicide attempt several months earlier.

While her death didn't shock her parents, Simon and Sue Wischer, the Peregian Springs couple say it still left them devastated.

It also left them angry at a system that robs people like Julie of the choice to legally end their own life with the help and advice of euthanasia experts.


"QUITE frankly, I'm bloody proud of her and so is Sue," Simon Wischer says with quite determination.

"Who would have the guts to do what she has done? To plan it all the way she did.

"But of course we were devastated.

"No parent wants to see their children go before they do."

It is just three weeks since Julie Hunter took her own life and we are sitting in the dining room of the Wischer's Perigian Springs home.

LISTEN: Father opens up about Julie Hunter's life, disease, death

Condolence cards still sit on the table in the dining room, alongside a photo of David, Sue and Julie.

It's a recent Christmas celebration and everyone is smiling.

The Wischers are still reeling from Julie's suicide but over-riding their emotional pain is pride in what their daughter had the courage to do and a determination that no one else should ever go through the emotional and physical pain she did.

The Daily first told of Julie's death late last month after Dr Philip Nitschke revealed an Exit International meeting and workshop on the Sunshine Coast would be held in her honour.

As MS and the rare disease Erythromelalgia ravaged her body and left her in constant pain, Julie had turned to Exit International for help to end her life peacefully.

 

But because helping a person take their own life is still illegal, all the controversial organisation could do was provide her with written material.

How Julie finally ended her life is a private matter for the Wischers but Simon says her unsuccessful overdose several months earlier had severely impacted on her already fragile emotional state.

The "very private" woman had been forced to give up work and, ultimately, moved into a Noosa nursing home when she could no longer care for herself.

"She thought it was going to be okay but you can't have young people in with old people and she hated it," Simon said.

"It gradually got worse and worse and worse, as far as she was concerned.

"She thought she was in a prison and there was nothing we could do about it - absolutely nothing."

Julie was a regular sight as she walked from the nursing home to Hastings St, usually stopping for a coffee on the way with either her mum or dad.

But Simon says it was a "tragic" life and Julie was devastated when her first suicide attempt failed.

"She was very angry with us when they revived her because she had signed a health directive saying she wasn't to be revived.

"But in Queensland that doesn't hold sway with the doctors because if someone tries to take their own life with tablets etc, the doctors are obliged to resuscitate them if they possibly can."

He and Sue knew Julie was unhappy but didn't realise the extent of her misery.

"We knew she was very unhappy but she really gave us no inkling that it (her suicide) was imminent.

"She'd talked about it by saying she was very unhappy and it just wasn't worth going on, but it was just generalising.

"Obviously as parents we tried to jog her along and talk to her.

"She wouldn't go with us anywhere.

"She went into more or less a depression.

"I hate using that word because it's a horrible word, but she was angry it hadn't happened the first time and she didn't want to be here."

News of Julie's death hit the couple hard, despite their pride in her courage.

"Whilst we fully understand why she did it and we are at peace with what she did, don't misunderstand ... it's still a shock when it actually happens ..." Simon said.

"And yes, as parents we would have tried to talk her out of it if we had known. I think any parent would.

"But we are comfortable with what she did. We think she had a right to do what she did.

"You can't say anything (to stop them) and that is the truth.

"All you can be is a loving parent. That's all you can damn well be and nothing will change their mind.

"Once they've made up their mind - that's it.

"What we are cranky with is a system that doesn't allow people to die with dignity.

"That really annoys me."

Simon said he and Sue had not been supporters of voluntary euthanasia until they lived through Julie's pain and death.

"I think only when it touches you, you then start to think about it," he said.

"Sue and I are both in our early 70s so we're starting to think about our own mortality.

"You start to think 'well gee, I can understand why people do it now'."

Simon attended the Exit International meeting in Julie's honour and even joined the organisation in the hope of making some sort of difference.

"I want to give them support because I believe everyone has a right to make their own decisions - not have decisions made for them, especially if they are in pain or they don't want to be here.

"Not for nefarious reasons but for a genuine reason - that they are in pain and their life is not worth living.

"Julie's life was not one that could be salvaged.

"It wasn't one you could turn around.

"She had too much wrong with her and I believe people like that have a right to die.

"There might be other people who might be mentally askew or not quite thinking right and yes, a lot of them can be turned around by Lifeline or someone like that. That's fine.

"But there are people who can't.

"Any terminal illness - I think people have a right to die."

Some time before she died - probably before her first suicide attempt - Julie wrote a letter to Simon and Sue which she left for them to find in her personal possessions.

In it, she thanked them for their love and support during her prolonged health battles.
 

The card Julie Hunter left for her parents when took her own life. It's something they will treasure for the rest of their lives.
The card Julie Hunter left for her parents when took her own life. It's something they will treasure for the rest of their lives. john mccutcheon

"Never try to justify the reason for my passing as I am in a beautiful new world, free of pain, free of frustration and free of what would have been a cruel future with the course of these diseases," she wrote.

"You both were my life, my inspiration for living, my strength and my reason to keep going.

"When you conquer you deepest fears, your courage comes out.

"My deepest fear is the thought of losing you both or leaving you both behind but my courage is knowing you are strong and will deal with my passing from your inner strength and courage.

"I am extremely fortunate to have amazing parents ...

"Thank you for sharing in my beautiful journey, my life on this earth.

"I finally have peace, quite, harmony and serenity that only God can give."

 

 

 

 

Simon said the beautifully-decorated, hand-written letter was something he and Sue would cherish forever.

"It just blew us away when we read it two or three times, when we think she had written something like that and taken so much time to do it and done it so lovingly," he said.

"It's something we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

"No one can take her away from us - our memories. That's the important thing - we've got memories."

Julie was farewelled at a private funeral attended by only a small number of family members and close friends.

Simon described it as "very happy".

"It was really beautiful and it went off really well.

"Everyone was happy because she's in the arms of the angels and that's where she wants to be."

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