New Zealand Euthanasia Advocate Claims Mental Illness When Killing Mother

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Zealand Euthanasia Advocate Claims Mental Illness When Killing Mother Email this article
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by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
November 2, 2004

Wellington, New Zealand ( — A lawyer for New Zealand euthanasia advocate Lesley Martin now says she was suffering from a mental disorder when she murdered her terminally ill mother. Martin is now serving a 15-month jail term for her role in the 1999 death, but is appealing her conviction and sentence.

Martin’s mental health is being debated at the Court of Appeal. Her lawyer suggests that she might have intended to inject her mother Joy with morphine, but not cause her to die.

Lawyer Donald Stevens also contends the evidence used to convict her was flawed and that the trial judge misdirected the jury in her case. Stevens said Martin’s "admissions" were the result of her own exhaustion.

The parole board has already rejected two separate efforts to allow Martin to serve out her sentence in her home. The board ruled against her, saying she refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Martin contends her involvement in her mother’s death was not a criminal act.

Australian euthanasia campaigner Dr. Philip Nitchske told Newstalk ZB in March that Martin committed a "compassionate" act in trying to hasten her mother’s death.

However, during sentencing, Justice Wilde said Martin showed a total lack of remorse, indicating she would try to kill again if a similar situation arose. Other members of Martin’s family have condemned her actions.

Martin’s conviction has been considered a setback for the pro-euthanasia movement.

Euthanasia opponent Wesley Smith has written, "The overriding and implacable goal of the movement will always be what it has been from its inception more than one hundred years ago–legalized killing as a legitimate answer to illness and human suffering."