You might not recognise Evans Mott's name or the specifics of the situation that brought him to the attention of police and the justice system, but you'll be familiar with the type of charge he faced.
Mr Mott pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting the suicide last December of his wife, Rosemary Mott.
His lawyer described him as a "hero" who undertook a "courageous" act in helping his wife end her suffering from multiple sclerosis. Even the Crown prosecutor admitted the crime was committed out of compassion for his wife.
So the judge's decision to discharge the 61-year-old without conviction should reignite the euthanasia debate. We say should, but we mean must. Surely it's time to start talking publicly - and seriously - about this subject.
You can't but feel sympathy for Mr Mott's situation. To sit and watch a loved one being destroyed by a terminal illness is not something wished on anyone.
Sadly, it doesn't take much of an internet search to find similar cases. In Dunedin, Sean Davison crushed "a good dozen" morphine tablets into a glass of water for his cancer-ravaged mother to help her end her life, but after writing about it in a book, was charged, convicted and sentenced to five months' home detention.
The case generated considerable debate and comment at the time but appears to have faded into the background.
An earlier case involved that of Lesley Martin, who was convicted of the attempted murder of her mother, Joy Martin, with an overdose of morphine. She served half her 15-month prison sentence and has become an advocate of euthanasia.
The subject is a universal topic. Just last month we ran the tragic story of British man Tony Nicklinson, suffering from lock-in syndrome after a stroke, who went to the High Court in the United Kingdom to obtain the right to end his life with the help of a doctor. He failed, communicating his distress via a computer operated by his eye movements. That's not quality of life.
Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a member's bill, the End of Life Choice Bill, seeking to legalise euthanasia. The last time the subject came before Parliament was in 2003, promoted by NZ First MP Peter Brown. It was defeated on its first vote by 60-57.
But much has changed in society in the past nine years. This year, a Sunday Star-Times reader poll of more than 1000 people found almost three-quarters of people would help a terminally ill loved one end their life. Support for a law change is highest among men, and those over 60.
Even Prime Minister John Key signalled his broad support last month for medically assisted euthanasia, by suggesting euthanasia was what "effectively happens in our hospitals", although he later backed away from those comments after criticism from doctors.
Regardless of who said what or what they meant, we think Mr Mott's case highlights, again, the need to talk about euthanasia in the case of terminal illness.
It's not our place to dictate whether it should be legalised and on that we offer no opinion, but surely it's the right time to start having a conversation on something that all of us will face?
Despite Sean Davison's experience, he remained supportive of having a mechanism that allowed someone who was terminally ill to have a dignified death. As he once said, "what is important is kindness".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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