Euthanasia Campaigner Who Killed Her Mother Appeals Jail Sentence

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Euthanasia Campaigner Who Killed Her Mother Appeals Jail Sentence

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 5, 2004

Wellington, New Zealand ( — New Zealand assisted suicide activist Lesley Martin will appeal a 15-month jail sentence she received for the "mercy killing" of her mother. Martin will not ask for bail while she appeals the conviction.

At the end of April, Martin was told she would spend only 15 months in prison from a possible 14-year sentence for ending the life of her mother in May 1999.

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

Martin’s attorney, Donald Stevens, said on Tuesday that he would file an appeal with the Court of Appeal in the next few days. He told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he would argue the guilty verdict is wrong and that the sentence was excessive.

Stevens said Martin chose not to seek bail because it would cause her family more distress if she lost the appeal and returned to prison.

Despite the comments, Joy Martin’s youngest daughter, Louise Britton, says her sister Lesley was wrong to use 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’s family, including her husband and brother, asked her to take advantage of a home detention sentence offered by Judge John Wild, instead of serving the sentence in prison. She refused saying she didn’t want her home considered a prison.

During the sentencing last week, Judge 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."

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."

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.