By David Barber -
THE cases of two men charged with helping terminally ill relatives to end their lives have sparked a fresh debate about voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand.
Opposition politician Maryan Street is pushing legislation that would allow a person to help someone end their life without facing criminal charges. Parliament last debated the issue in 2003 after a woman was jailed for 15 months on a charge of attempted murder after her terminally ill mother died.
Despite an outpouring of public sympathy for nurse Lesley Martin, Parliament rejected a Death with Dignity bill by a 60-57 vote. “The politicians have not had the guts to look at it again since then,” Sean Davidson, told the Voluntary Euthanasia Society after being released from five months of house arrest for helping his 85-year-old cancer-ridden mother to commit suicide in October 2006.
“I broke the law, but it's a bad law and now is the time to change it,” said Davidson, who gave her the lethal dose of morphine she had begged for after unsuccessfully trying to starve herself to death. Davidson, a 50-year-old scientist, flew home yesterday to his wife and two young sons in South Africa where he heads the forensic DNA analysis laboratory at the University of the Western Cape.
Meanwhile, Evans Mott, 61, awaits trial in Auckland on a charge of aiding and abetting the December suicide of his wife, who suffered an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
Police allege Mott and his wife, 55, researched suicide methods and assembled a death kit three months before she asked him to leave her alone in the house. He found her dead when he returned several hours later.
“It is truly unfortunate that in our modern society we force people to be isolated in these circumstances and then expose their loving and grieving family to the indignity of being dragged before our criminal courts in this way,” his lawyer Ron Mansfield told the New Zealand Herald.
Opinion polls show up to 70 per cent of people favour a change in the law. Opponents who see voluntary euthanasia as a ‘slippery slope’ endangering the vulnerable whom other people may want to get rid of, have so far been restrained in public comments.