Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Great-gran's last wish comes true

Gillian Bennett gets New Zealanders talking about a person’s right to die

Jonathan Bennett with Gillian Bennett, who took her own life last Monday as she was suffering from advancing dementia. Photo / Supplied
Jonathan Bennett with Gillian Bennett, who took her own life last Monday as she was suffering from advancing dementia. Photo / Supplied

A great-grandmother and dementia sufferer who chose to take her life after publishing a lengthy manifesto about her belief in a person's right to die has received widespread support across New Zealand.

Christchurch-born Gillian Bennett, 85, took her own life last Monday with Jonathan, her husband of 60 years, at her side.

Mrs Bennett explains that she did not want to end up a "vegetable" or lose herself; nor did she want her family to suffer the heartbreak of her decline.

Since publishing extracts of Mrs Bennett's note and sharing her husband's moving account of her last day, the Herald has been inundated with messages from New Zealanders.

The majority support Mrs Bennett, but some have voiced concern about the nature of her death being made public - which they believe "glamourises suicide" and could spark copycat deaths.

Mrs Bennett wanted her letter to start a global conversation about the right to die. Her grieving husband yesterday thanked those participating in that conversation, but did not want to respond to individual opinions.

"I'm very glad that Gillian's example and message are being spread in New Zealand," he said.

"I have been public about my support for Gillian and my belief that it is good to have the conversation reopened."

Assisted suicide is illegal in New Zealand. Under Section 179 of the Crimes Act 1961, anyone convicted of inciting, counselling or procuring another person to commit suicide or who physically helps them in any way to take their own life faces a maximum of 14 years in prison.

Where to get help
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Suicide Crisis: Helpline 0508 828 865

- NZ Herald

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