Friday 23 February 2018

Susan Austen cleared of euthanasia charge

Suzy Austin found “not guilty” of aiding suicide

It is with the utmost pleasure that I can report that Suzy Austin, who was accused by a vindictive police force of aiding the suicide of 77-year-old Annemarie Treadwell. 

This is truly a victory of those who uphold a higher ethical position and believe in the rights of people in their right mind who are ill and old, to choose to end their lives with dignity.

Despite a vicious summing up by the prosecuting lawyer and the addition of an additional charge (I did not know they could do that in the midst of a trial) by yesterday I had a premonition that things might not go badly after listening to the case put by the impressive defence lawyer, Dr Donald Stevens in his summing up:

"This case has also for humanity and for others and support for others in their suffering. These are, you might think, amongst the highest qualities human beings can display and they lead to a true nobility of spirit".


I can only concur and say I have met few people who have the interests of others at heart and want nothing for themselves apart from, perhaps the satisfaction that they have done the right thing.

The  comments of the judge were balanced and also gave some room for optimism although the people present in the public gallery of the Court will have been on tenterhooks.

The result, which cleared Suzy Austin of the main charge of aiding Annemarie Treadwell’s suicide but found her guilty of importing a class C controlled drug pentobarbitone, has gone a long way to restoring my faith in the judiciary (which was greatly reduced by actions of the previous government) and should hopefully bode well for further efforts to pass legislation to legalise voluntary euthanasia for the elderly and the infirm.

I have little idea of how the general political climate affects decisions in cases like this but this affair began in a repressive environment under the previous National government and fell into the category of police illegality (still to be ruled on by the Independent Police Conduct Authority) and harassment.

Some of you will be aware that the police, who were surveilling Suzy Austin and bugging her home set up a road block to catch people attending a meeting of Exit International and to take their names.

I was in attendance at that meeting but avoided the dragnet  But t because I took another more direct route home. However, the next Saturday morning I was awoken by a rude knock at the door. The cops, who I kept on the doorstep wanted details which I refused to give and left details of suicide help lines (two of which had already been closed due to lack of funding). 

However, I recall the chilling statement of one of the young cops that “we are going to close down Suzy Austin”.

That candid statement, more than anything, revealed their true intent which had NOTHING to do with the welfare of people. Any people.

Some people might argue that the drug is illegal and therefore police action was justified. But we all know of cases in the past where things can be illegal but the police have chosen to ignore it.

Quite apart from the fact that almost every repressive action carried out by governments anywhere are legal – right up to, and including genocide.

We all know that in most aspects of our lives, the police are completely absent. Have your home burgled or be assaulted and you take your chances in having the crime investigated. Even in the case of road safety I can hardly think of the time when I saw a police vehicle on the road. 

The police are under - resourced and under pressure and yet it seems there seems to be all the time and resources in the world to target and harass the elderly and the seriously-ill with actions like this.

This case has shown that the only victims in this “crime” were those harassed by the police and Suzy being charge with a “crime” that has no victim.

Similarly with medicinal cannabis where the majority of the public think that seriously –ill people and those in pain should have access to a substance that has demonstrably done no harm and helped many where no help was forthcoming from other quarters.

The response of the police, however, has been to double down on arresting those who demonstrate compassion and love for humanity by supply medicinal cannabis to those who need it, often free-of-charge.

Police block medicinal marijuana for 2000 illegal users

I thank God that we have indications that at least in this area we may be seeing a softening of a hard-nosed attitude in society.

I know, and the court case has revealed, that members of Exit International are generally highly intelligent , reflective and also happy people – far from being the depressives one might imagine them to be – and only keep pentobarbitone as an “insurance”, to provide peace-of-mind because they have seen loved ones die the most painful deaths because help was not forthcoming.

Only a few people out of the members ever choose to actually use the drug to end their lives.

The other, usual objection to euthanasia, is that families eager to “get their hands on the money” will pressurise their family member to have their life prematurely ended. From what I have seen the decision is a rational one based on their own consideration. 

Members of Exit are, from what I have seen, intelligent and highly-independent-to-a tee and insist on what I call their own personal sovereignty.

I am not a libertarian and never have been, but I could easily become one on both of these issues.

On that note I can think of nothing I can support the right wing, libertarian ACT Party and especially its leader, David Seymour.

However, I can support him on this issue.

I can only hope that  the politicians who are out of touch with public opinion can undergo a change of hear and vote for meaningful legislation that will end the current situation

Here is coverage of today's verdict

Euthanasia advocate acquitted of aiding woman's suicide

Cheers have rung out outside the High Court in Wellington, after a euthanasia advocate was cleared of involvement in another woman's suicide

Susan Austen has also been found not guilty on one count of illegally importing the Class C controlled drug, pentobarbitone into New Zealand.

However the jury found her guilty on two other counts of importing the drug, including bringing into New Zealand the drugs Annemarie Treadwell used to kill herself.

The death of Ms Treadwell in 2016 was not initially considered suspicious, but after a suicide note was found a postmortem was carried out, which revealed she had died from pentobarbitone toxicity.

Ms Treadwell's diary revealed she was a member of a euthanasia lobby group, which Ms Austen was also involved with.

In the diary she referred to "suzy" helping her to obtain drugs from overseas and also the support "suzy" was giving her.

It was revealed during the two-week trial that police had bugged Ms Austen's telephones, home and car.

Excerpts were played to the court, including part of a meeting of a euthanasia group held at her home.

Police were also found to have conducted a bogus drink-driving checkpoint down the road from a Hutt Valley euthanasia meeting and had used that pretext to collect the names and addresses of of those involved.

A decision from the Independent Police Conduct Authority is still pending on the legality of that operation.

Ms Austen will be sentenced in May on the charges on which she was found guilty.

However the defence lawyer, Donald Stevens asked Justice Thomas not to enter a conviction today, indicating a discharge without conviction may be sought.

Outside the court, Ms Austen said she was heartened by the support she had received.

"I feel absolutely delighted. It's a glorious sunny day in Wellington and I'm very lucky.

"I'm so fortunate to have my gorgeous husband and one of my sons here and all the supporters who have come from all around the world to be here to support me."

Ms Austen said she was shaking when the verdict was read out and was relieved it was over.

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