February 13, 2018
High Court trial of euthanasia campaigner Susan Austen gets under way on Monday
Stuff.co.nz National News
Susan Austen has pleaded not guilty to aiding a suicide and importing a drug that can be used for euthanasia.
The trial of euthanasia campaigner Susan Austen begins in the High Court at Wellington on Monday.
The 66-year-old retired Lower Hutt teacher faces one charge of aiding Annemarie Niesje Treadwell to commit suicide, and two charges of importing pentobarbitone, a sedative that could be used for euthanasia.
Treadwell, who died in Wellington in June 2016, aged 77, had been a member of pro-euthanasia groups Voluntary Euthanasia Society and Exit International. She suffered from chronic pain, arthritis, clinical depression, and short-term memory problems.
The trial will be before a judge and jury in the High Court at Wellington.
Austen was arrested after police admitted they used a drink-driving checkpoint to identify people who had attended a pro-euthanasia meeting in Maungaraki, Lower Hutt, in October 2016.
* Police admit targeting euthanasia meeting
* We know where you’ve been, police tell 76-year-old
* Jury trial over assisted suicide
* Susan Austen in court
The police operation, and Austen’s prosecution, added fuel to the ongoing euthanasia debate.
A crowd-sourcing campaign to raise funds for Austen’s defence, which aimed to raise $50,000, had made more than $53,000 by Sunday afternoon.
Prominent Australian euthanasia proponent Philip Nitschke, director of Exit International, said he was flying from Sydney to attend the trial, and planned to focus the attention of the world’s media on it.
The euthanasia debate was brought to national attention in 2015 when terminally ill Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales went to the High Court to argue for the right to choose to end her own life.
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke is travelling to Wellington for the trial, and hopes to draw the attention of the world’s media to it.
Justice David Collins said it was for Parliament, not him, to decide on legalising the right to die.
In December last year, ACT leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill, which would legalise voluntary euthanasia, passed its first hurdle after Parliament voted to send it to a select committee by 76 votes to 44.
The bill would give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.
Submissions on the bill can be made until midnight, February 20.