Assisted Suicide Advocate Who Euthanized Her Mom Gets Jail

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Assisted Suicide Advocate Who Euthanized Her Mom Gets Jail

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 30, 2004

Wellington,New Zealand ( — An assisted suicide advocate in New Zealand who euthanized her mother and wrote a book about it will go to jail. Lesley Martin will spend only 15 months in prison from a possible 14-year sentence for ending the life of her mother in May 1999.

According to the Weekend Australian newspaper, Judge John Wild said he would "show mercy" to Martin but that he had an obligation to punish her for the crime.

Judge Wild also said Martin displayed an arrogance and contempt of the judicial process.

"You do not view yourself as a criminal," Justice Wild said. "You seem in some ways to believe you are above the law."

Martin had injected her mother, Joy, a 69 year-old woman afflicted with rectal cancer, with a massive amount of morphine.

Martin’s lawyer, Donald Stevens, urged Judge Wild to let Martin go free.

"What Lesley Martin did here was driven solely by love, compassion and mercy. To imprison a person for an act of mercy would offend against every worthwhile human sensibility," Stevens said, according to the newspaper.

Stevens said he plans to appeal the sentence on Martin’s behalf.

Martin has been allowed to apply to the parole board for home detention rather than serving her sentence in a prison, but her brother Michael said she doesn’t want to serve her sentenced confined to her home.

"If they deem this crime to be so heinous as to warrant a jail term, then I’ll do it in jail," Lesley Martin said, according to the Irish Herald.

In a book she wrote, Martin states that she attempted to end her mother’s life by administering morphine and smothering her the next day. She had pledged that she would prevent her mother from undergoing a slow and painful death.

Brian Johnston, author of the book Death as a Salesman, told earlier in the trial, "I’ve been at numerous deathbeds and I know the emotions that surround suffering and death. I also know that there are better answers than killing these vulnerable patients."

Meanwhile, Joy Martin’s youngest daughter, Louise Britton, says her sister Lesley is wrong to her their mother’s death as a means of promoting assisted suicide. She told New Zealand media that her sister is "not a very nice person."

"No one knows what she’s truly like . . . There’s a lot of people she’s hurt," Britton said.

Martin is the founder of a pro-euthanasia group in New Zealand.

Euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand and parliament last year rejected a bill to legalize it.