Euthanasia Campaigner Had Temporary Mental Illness, Attorney
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 2, 2004
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND--An attorney for euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin told the Court of Appeal Monday that the evidence used to convict her of attempting to murder her mother was not reliable.
That evidence, Donald Stevens told the court, included admissions by the former nurse that she administered a fatal dose of morphine to her mother in May 1999. Stevens said Martin's statements could not be trusted because she was under stress and exhaustion at the time.
She had also been suffering a "temporary mental disorder" which made her believe she had done something that she had not done, Stevens told the court.
None of three New Zealand newspapers named the exact mental illness Stevens described.
Martin is appealing her conviction and 15-month sentence that was imposed in April. Martin, who could have received a 14-year sentence, is scheduled to be released on December 13.
An appeal to the Parole Board in June was rejected because she would not admit that what she did was wrong and would not agree to avoid the media. A second appeal in August was rejected because she still would not concede that her actions were wrong, and board members believed she continued to be a threat to the community.
Martin, the founder of a pro-euthanasia group, admitted helping her 69-year-old mother, Joy, to die.
Her guilty verdict came after she wrote about the death of her mother, who had rectal cancer, in the book "To Die Like a Dog", and led a nationwide campaign calling for New Zealand to legalize voluntary euthanasia.
Last year, Parliament rejected a bill that would have made euthanasia legal.
Disability rights groups around the world have opposed efforts to legalize assisted suicide for years. They have argued that doing so would essentially make it "open season" for people with disabilities and anyone else who is considered undesirable or a "burden" on society -- particularly at a time when the cost of health care is high. Despite legal safeguards, many of those who have been assisted to kill themselves have not been in the final stages of terminal illness.