Margaret Page dies in rest home after 16 days
Margaret Page became the face of a debate which drew euthanasia supporters, legal experts and the Catholic Church to speak out on her decision to starve herself to death.
Last night, 16 days after she stopped eating, the 60-year-old woman died at a Wellington rest home.
It was the end of a life which was transformed in one day by a brain haemorrhage.
A police car was last night parked outside the St John of God rest home where Mrs Page had starved herself to death.
Senior Sergeant Paul Wiszniewski said police were alerted to her death at 7.12pm by rest-home staff.
"It appeared to be the people from the care home themselves."
The Dominion Post revealed last week that Mrs Page had stopped eating and refused attempts by health authorities to make her more comfortable.
Her stance sparked legal and ethical debate, and, while her family had supported her decision, her husband, Barry Page, had wanted her to be forced to eat.
Mrs Page had crammed her life with karate, scuba diving, kayaking and sporting activity before suffering a brain haemorrhage while kayaking down the Otaki River in 1991.
Since then her speech and movement had been severely limited, and she moved into the St John of God home in Karori in 2001.
Her condition deteriorated, from one of being capable of walking short distances to needing help to eat and shower.
St John of God Haurora Trust chief executive Ralph La Salle said staff and residents were deeply saddened by Mrs Page's death.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs Page and her family and have been throughout the past weeks - a time which has been exceptionally difficult and emotional for Mrs Page, her family, other residents, staff and everyone who knew her," he said.
"We continued to provide a very high level of care for Mrs Page until her death. We worked closely with her GP, who visited daily, the Ministry of Health and staff from the Mary Potter Hospice, who also provided care to Mrs Page."
Mr La Salle said that food and water had been offered to Mrs Page by staff members whenever they went into her room and at regular intervals. In addition, a staff member was dedicated to Mrs Page's care during the last period of her life.
"Mrs Page maintained her resolve to refuse food until the very end of her life," he said.
Voluntary euthanasia activist and Dignity New Zealand founder Lesley Martin said it was sad that Mrs Page had had to starve herself to achieve the end she wanted.
"I'm pleased she had the strong degree of support that she did, but I'm sad that this is the best we can offer people in her situation."
Mr Page, who looked after his wife for 16 years, told The Dominion Post last week that Mrs Page was determined to end her life.
Legal experts had said the law was on Mrs Page's side as she had been lucid. However, suicide experts cautioned that assessing suicidal patients was difficult.
Capital & Coast District Health Board staff visited Mrs Page after her hunger strike was revealed.
Mr Wiszniewski said police were at the care home last night and Mrs Page's death would be referred to the coroner.
- with NZPA
The Dominion Post