HOBART, May 26, 2004 ( – A man who admitted to killing his ailing mother has been given a one-year suspended sentence in the first case of its kind in Tasmania. John Stuart Godfrey had pleaded guilty to having fed her a cocktail of crushed sleeping pills mixed with whiskey and placing a plastic bag over her head.

The case was the first of assisting a suicide to reach the Tasmanian supreme court. Mr. Godfrey killed his 88-year old mother by following directions in books she herself had written.  Mrs. Godfrey had been a member of the euthanasia advocacy organization, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, for twenty years and was known to be an outspoken advocate of euthanasia. Euthanasia campaigners are hailing the decision as a breakthrough. Justice Peter Underwood commented that the crime was one motivated by “compassion and love”.  Sheila Howe of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Tasmania said, “She was quite unswerving in her determination that when her youthful days were over and she was suffering, she didn’t want to go on living.” Mrs. Godfrey was not suffering from a terminal illness, but suffered chronic pain from back and hip injuries. A doctor said that Mrs Godfrey saw that life had become a “chore”, she had outlived her usefulness and she wanted to bring it to an end.  Mary Joseph, spokesman for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, said that there needs to be a better option than suicide for people in pain. “Justice Underwood’s suggestion that assisting a suicide can be rational and have some justification as an act of last resort undermines the protection of the law for vulnerable suicidal people,” she said.


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