New Zealand Euthanasia Activist Can Stay on Nursing Rolls, Writes Book

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 12, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Zealand Euthanasia Activist Can Stay on Nursing Rolls, Writes Book Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 12, 2006

Wellington, New Zealand ( — New Zealand euthanasia advocate Lesley Martin, who was jailed for 15 months in 2004 for killing her mother in a euthanasia bid, has won the right to stay on the nation’s list of registered nurses. The decision has pro-life advocates on the island nation up in arms.

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal let Martin stay on the rolls, but imposed strict conditions that make it unlikely Martin will ever practice nursing again.

The Tribunal’s decision is at odds with a recombination the Nursing Council of New Zealand made last November to cancel her nursing license on the grounds that the murder and euthanasia conviction made her unfit to practice medicine.

Nursing Council’s lawyer, Kristy McDonald said Martin breached the public trust with her actions.

"It is a case of a professional nurse acting deliberately," she said, according to a New Zealand Herald news report.

Martin has not worked as a nurse since 1997 and has no plans to seek employment as a nurse. Still, McDonald said she was worried Martin would use her nursing background to promote assisted suicide or euthanasia there.

Martin’s lawyer, Donald Stevens said what Martin did in private in killing her mother was separate from her potential employment as a nurse.

"It throws into sharp relief the distinction to be drawn between a registered nurse caring for a patient in the course of her duties and on the other hand a caregiver, who happens to be a nurse, caring for a loved family member," he claimed.

If Martin wants to pursue employment as a nurse, she would have to submit to a Nursing Council evaluation, be assessed by a psychiatrist or psychologist regarding her ability to make decisions in stressful situations, and work for three years under supervision.

Despite the restrictions, New Zealand Right to Life was unhappy with the decision.

"The Tribunal has a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of life ethic and to protect the vulnerable in our community especially the handicapped and the terminally ill," the group said in a statement provided to

"There is no place in the nursing profession for a nurse who has been found guilty of attempting to kill her dying mother, who was her patient," the group added. "Lesley Martin also refused palliative care for her mother. To her shame she has expressed no remorse."

Meanwhile, Martin plans to write a book about her experiences which will reveal her reasons for going public about killing her mother.

Martin previously published a book called To Die Like A Dog where she claims she was fulfilling her mother’s wishes to be killed rather than live with a disease. That book led police to charge Martin with murder in the case.

In an interview with NZPA, Martin said her seven months in prison "gave me a deep insight into the administration of the criminal justice system — especially the gap between philosophy and practice and what causes people to reoffend."

She said her new book, To Cry Inside, which will be published in August, will explain more about her public battle to promote euthanasia.

"It also covers my experiences with the police investigation, the trial, the media and my time in prison," she told NZPA.

Martin confirmed in the interview that she has no plans to return to the nursing profession, saying she had "moved on."

Martin heads the pro-euthanasia group Dignity New Zealand.