New Zealand Herald


Campaigner fights muzzle

18 MARCH 2003


Voluntary euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin, who has been charged with the attempted murder of her mother, will fight in court next week against a muzzling order.

Martin entered no plea and was released on bail from Wanganui District Court on Thursday on conditions which included not being allowed to talk to anyone about her case involving the death of her terminally ill mother, Joy, in 1999.

The Wanganui woman's arrest by police follows her admission in her book, To Die Like A Dog, that she twice tried to kill her mother.

Her fiance, Warren Fulljames, said last night that Martin would appeal to the High Court next week against the gagging order.

"The judge has taken away Lesley's right to talk about a subject she is very passionate about."

Mr Fulljames said she had been resigned to being arrested as part of a process she deliberately started by going public about her mother's death from rectal cancer.

In January, Martin described murder charges against an 89- year-old Paraparaumu man for allegedly killing his terminally ill wife as an outrageous waste of police time which would not stop others from taking their lives.

Yesterday, Ralph Vincent, an 84-year-old Nelson man under police investigation after his wife died with a plastic bag over her head, voiced "disgust" at the charge laid against Martin.

He was "all the more concerned" that it coincided with the introduction to Parliament of New Zealand First MP Peter Brown's Death With Dignity Bill, aimed at reviewing euthanasia laws.

"I hope and trust that this is not politically motivated as this [Martin] is a person who should be appearing before a select committee."

Mr Brown's bill, opposed by the Catholic Church and Medical Association, seeks a referendum on whether people should be able to chose their time of death.

Martin, a trained intensive care nurse, wrote in her book that she twice tried to end her 68-year-old mother's suffering - the first time by administering a higher-than-usual dose of morphine the day before she died, and then by trying to suffocate her with a pillow.

Martin said this week, before being arrested, that her mother had said she did not want to die "inch by inch" as Martin's grandparents had.

"I promised her I wouldn't let that happen."

Martin said that while writing the book as therapy, she had come to appreciate that the issue was much bigger than her own situation.