Public support for euthanasia is growing in New Zealand in the wake of key court decisions, says a Labour Party MP who advocates assisted suicide.
The discharge without conviction of Auckland man Evans Mott after he assisted his wife's suicide reflected an increasing compassion for euthanasia, said MP Maryan Street.
She is the author of a private member's bill to legalise assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness and irreversible disease.
Mr Mott's wife Rosie died late last year after suffering an aggressive, incurable form of multiple sclerosis.
Ms Street did not want to comment on the specific details of the High Court decision, but pointed to similar cases and poll results which suggested New Zealanders supported a change to "dying with dignity".
"Lesley Martin got 15 months' custodial sentence, Sean Davison got five months' home detention, Evans Mott was discharged without conviction," she said, referring to previous cases of assisted suicide.
A Herald-DigiPoll survey showed 63.2 per cent of New Zealanders supported a law change, and Ms Street said this was backed by a separate poll released this week.
Ms Street's bill would allow people aged 18 or over to be helped to die if they were proven mentally competent by two doctors, after consultation with family, and after a "stand-down" period of a week.
Two previous attempts to change the law, one by Peter Brown when he was a NZ First MP and the other by Michael Laws when he was in Parliament for National, were voted down.
Ms Street's bill has been slammed by National MP Maggie Barry, who has a long-standing connection with Hospice New Zealand and is campaigning to improve the standard of palliative care in New Zealand.
Ms Barry said yesterday that she appreciated that Mr Mott's case was "a tragic and difficult situation for the couple and their family".
"I agree with Justice Courtenay that his wife Rosie seemed determined to take the step of ending her own life, with or without his help."
The North Shore MP said that the case did not change her position on euthanasia.
She felt that Ms Street's bill was poorly drafted and would expose vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives.
A visiting United States expert on euthanasia, Yvonne Shaw, said one of the unintended consequences of legalising euthanasia in the state of Oregon was that more people had entered hospice care.
She said 95 per cent of the people on the state's Death by Dignity programme had accessed hospice care, compared to 60 per cent of people not on the programme.
Since the law had been changed in Oregon in 1997, around 1200 people had entered the programme and 700 of those had gone on to take their lives.
In provisions similar to the Oregon law, Ms Street's bill would allow only local residents to access the end-of-life care.
The Labour MP's bill would go one step further than the US law by enabling terminally ill patients to get help to end their life.By Isaac Davison @Isaac_Davison Email Isaac