DESPITE suffering from multiple sclerosis for more than a third of her life, award-winning author Gillian Mears has only recently undergone a ''drastic change'' of heart in favour of voluntary euthanasia.
Mears will appear before the Parliamentary Forum on the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill on Monday in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia.
Her speech, which has a working title of ''My body like lumber'', will detail her physical decline over the past five years.
Mears, 48, won the Prime Minister's Literary Award for fiction this year for her novel Foal's Bread. She told Fairfax Media she did not want to end up like two tragic characters in that book. ''They had no choice but to take their own lives, and the way they do it is extreme and drastic. And I think in the 21st century, there are surely different options.''
Other than a short walk every morning, the author is now confined to a wheelchair because of her MS, which she has described ''as the slow road to death''. Although she was diagnosed when she was 30, Mears was opposed to voluntary euthanasia until recently. ''As little as five years ago, I really did believe that without safeguards, voluntary euthanasia could be open to the terrible abuse of the elderly and the vulnerable in our society. I felt that quite strongly.''
But she had no idea her illness would go into such a steep slide, prompting a ''drastic change in my feelings'' about voluntary euthanasia. Now with her new consciousness, she wonders why it is illegal.
''If I've got a suffering animal, I won't hesitate to have them euthanised,'' said the keen horsewoman.
While she still hopes to get back on a horse one day, she has signed an advanced care directive saying she should not be resuscitated if the indignities of living become too awful. ''I wouldn't want to be stomach-fed, or my life sustained by some artificial medical contraption,'' she said.
Mears is writing an illustrated fable about life and death for all ages, The Cat with the Coloured Tail, which she hopes will be like a feline Little Prince, the story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. ''I want to be like the Wisdom Cat in my book,'' she said.
''I've come to Sydney looking for a miracle - to walk again, to live again, but I definitely still believe legislation would be a wonderful thing for people in my situation,'' she said. ''I'd like there to be a safety measure, because you certainly never do know what's coming.''
Information at dwdnsw.org.au/