Earlier this month, New Zealander, Evans Mott was set free by the Auckland High Court when the judge refused to record a conviction against him for the 2011 death of his wife, Rosie.
Rosie Mott had advanced Multiple Sclerosis. She had asked her husband to research ways of dying and, in response Mr Mott built a death device that sat in a wardrobe for three months before Mrs Mott decided to use it.
On that day in December 2011, Mrs Mott asked her husband to leave their home to buy something so that he could not be charged with direct assistance in her death or, in fact, a charge of suspected murder.
We should have every sympathy for Mr Mott. For three months he would have wondered every time he left his wife and the family home whether or not he would return to find her dead. He must also have been deeply distressed at his wife's deteriorating condition.
Certainly the judge thought so. Even though Mr Mott pleaded guilty to assisting in his wife's death, the judge recorded no conviction ruling that the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the seriousness of the crime.
I beg to differ. The crime is very serious. This judgement was wrong in as much as the statement above undermines the protection of all human life enshrined in the law and risks the devaluing of some lives depending upon circumstances. Leniency in sentencing, certainly, but not recording a conviction sends the wrong message entirely.
Interestingly, in a documentary program about the death of Rosie Mott that aired on NZ TV1 on the 16th of September, Mrs Mott's daughter, Amy Nankivell lamented the fact that no-one had thought to say to her mother not to kill herself. A simple message - there is help available, you are valued, we care and want to help.
The Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative CareMedicine, commenting on Nankivell's statement observed that legalising euthanasia & assisted suicide would re-enforce morbid thoughts with the message "yes go ahead, let's end your life" instead of "no don't do it, we will look after you".
A press statement from the disability advocacy group 'The Disability Clothesline' gave another pertinent view:
"A key message from Rosie Mott's suicide, and the video she filmed, is that if you live with or acquire a disability, it's OK, even laudable to kill yourself. But that directly contradicts what disabled people understand-that their lives are of equal value. It reflects a culture where euthanasia ideas rule and effectively categorises disabled lives as optional. That's unacceptable," says Disability Clothesline co-manager Wendi Wicks.
"Disabled people are not burdens, and, with support can live meaningful and rewarding lives, even with significant impairments. Negative social values towards disabled people contribute to decisions like Rosie's. Disabled people don't need to die that way," says Disability Clothesline co-manager Robyn Hunt.
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