New Bay group for assisted deaths

By JOEL FORD

CONTROVERSIAL euthanasia advocate Lesley Martin is coming to Tauranga to help launch a lobby group for legalising assisted deaths - and ultimately to set up havens where people can go to end their lives. Ms Martin will be holding two meetings in Tauranga next Wednesday with an eye to establishing a Bay of Plenty regional office of Dignity NZ - an organisation which supports the creation of a safe, supported and legal environment for assisted death. For Ms Martin the issue hits close to home. She was found guilty of attempted murder at the end of a two-week trial in Wanganui in 2004 after a book she published in 2002, To Die Like A Dog, told how she administered an overdose of morphine and held a pillow over the head of her dying mother, Joy Martin, in 1999. Now, through Dignity NZ, she is seeking to make voluntary euthanasia a legal alternative for New Zealanders so that others don't have to go through the same experience. "Voluntary euthanasia really boils down to personal choice. There is a lot of work to be done to support legislation to have it legalised. That is why we need an office in places like the Bay of Plenty," she says. She has already been involved two other attempts to push legislation through parliament legalising voluntary euthanasia, once in 1995 and again in 2003. Both failed and she found the opposition she was up against exceedingly well organised, well represented and highly visible. Now she wants the same kind of visibility for Dignity NZ. "Every poll that has ever been conducted on this issues says that between 65 and 75 per cent of New Zealanders support voluntary euthanasia. But those people aren't visible in making that clear to our MP's." Ms Martin says there are about 30 Dignity NZ supporters in Bay of Plenty and that the regional groups have three goals - to educate people about the issue, to raise the visibility of the organisation and to raise money to help get voluntary euthanasia legalised "Without legislation people really do some dreadful things.

People will use whatever to side step a painful death. A mechanic will use gas from his car, a farmer might use a gun. That is what we are trying to stop." Ultimately she says she would like to set up what she calls dignity havens - places where people can go that offer the option of voluntary euthanasia. "They would be similar concept to a hospice like those run by Hospice New Zealand right now except they would provide a safeguarded choice for voluntary euthanasia."
* For more information on the meetings call 027 410 2620

- Bay of Plenty Times

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