A Hamilton attorney who served on two of New Zealand's best-known euthanasia cases believes that a change in the law makes sense.
Roger Laybourn represented Taumarunui plumber Ian Crutchley in 2009 and Sean Davison, microbiologist in 2011, who both helped their mothers die.
Crutchley has been overdosing on drugs to his mother in the past few days when she was confronted with excruciating pain.
The jury convicted him of attempted murder, but on rare occasions asked the judge for leniency in the verdict. He was serving six months at home.
* Convicted killer Sean Davison plans to return to New Zealand and apologize
* New Zealander Sean Davison has been convicted of assisted suicides in South Africa
* Professor Sean Davison is charged with a third homicide in SA
CHRISTEL YARDLEY / Stuff
Defense attorney Roger Laybourn has handled two high profile euthanasia cases in which sons helped their mothers die: Ian Crutchley and Sean Davison.
Professor Davison also helped his mother, who had cancer, die after months of her illness – he later published a book about it.
His attempted murder charge was lowered when Davison pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and was sentenced to five months at home.
Davison is now serving another sentence in South Africa for helping three other people die.
Laybourn, a veteran criminal defense attorney, said he would support a law change in the referendum despite understanding issues on both sides.
"I support the referendum because I see other jurisdictions where precautions have been taken."
Laybourn said there were wonderful hospice services, but certain situations required more legal flexibility.
"Nothing is infallible, but there are good examples of how the law can be improved and people's rights protected."
Warwick Smith / Stuff
Taumarunui man Ian Crutchley was tried and convicted in 2009 of attempted murder of his mother, who has stomach cancer.
The proposed End-of-Life Bill would make no difference to the Crutchley case, as family members are not allowed to help end someone's life. That needs to be approved by two separate doctors.
Crutchleys was an "exceptional legal case" in which a son responded to an unexpected situation while facing his mother's excruciating pain in the past hours or days.
“I think the system worked there, balancing the sanctity of life with the person's compassionate motives.
“And probably the law did exactly what it was supposed to, but it just seems wrong on a human and moral basis.
"It was an absolute act of love by a son trying to protect his mother."
It could have made a difference in Davison's situation, however. According to his report, he was faced with a mother who asked him to help her die for months, Laybourn said.
“With Professor Davison, the situation was slightly different in that his mother had made it very clear that she wanted an assisted death when her dying process was prolonged, unworthy and painful.
"The change in the law would have helped him because there would have been a process for a spiritually competent person to choose their path."
The two landmark cases raised some of the most unique legal questions Laybourn has ever addressed.
Martin Van Beynen / things
Professor Sean Davison, before Dunedin High Court with Roger Laybourn in 2011. Davison, a microbiologist, was convicted of assisting the suicide of his terminally ill mother, Patricia Davison, 85, a former medical doctor.
"In forty years as a defense attorney, I can not imagine anything where human activity and the law collide so extremely."
Although the defendants' motives were human, the law viewed their actions as crossing borders, Laybourn said.
“In both cases, both people were fully motivated to alleviate acute suffering.
"Yet the law sees it as either murder or attempted murder."