Suicide pact woman sentenced

Karen Robson admitted participating in a suicide pact with her partner.  Photo / File
Karen Robson admitted participating in a suicide pact with her partner. Photo / File

A woman who admitted helping her partner kill himself has been sentenced to two years intense supervision.

Karen Robson, 47, appeared before the High Court at Auckland after earlier pleading guilty to belonging to a suicide pact. The charge has a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

The court had previously been told that Robson and Glenn Bernard Paterson, 45, made an agreement to commit suicide last September.

She was unsuccessful but he died.

The debate over euthanasia resurfaced this week when Prime Minister John Key said he believed the practice was widely used in the country's hospitals.

He told Newstalk ZB that if he was terminally in and in pain, he would want euthanasia to be a legal option.

"I look at a situation where I think there's a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals."

His comments have angered health professionals who say Mr Key had misrepresented the care of terminal patients.

Hospice NZ Medical Adviser Sandy MacLeod said Mr Key's comment was misguided and incorrect.

She said stopping treatment which was no longer effective was not euthanasia, and prolonging such treatment could increase suffering and distress.

Last year Dunedin professor Sean Davison made headlines when he was sentenced to home detention for helping his mother die.

He said he stepped in because she had been on a hunger strike for 33 days. The Herald on Sunday revealed an unpublished manuscript, in which he revealed how he had crumbled a dozen morphine tablets into her water glass and lifted it to her lips.

Davison wrote: "This is ghastly ... too unbelievable. What kind of sane person would keep their mother in a bedroom to rot to death?"

Labour MP Maryan Street said it was cases like Davison's that prompted her to submit a private member's bill to decriminalise euthanasia.

It is illegal to help someone else commit suicide. Doctors can give treatment such as morphine for pain, knowing that it may hasten death, but they cannot do it with death as the intended outcome.

- APNZ

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