Guilty of importing drugs, not guilty of assisting suicide

In a topical trial in Wellington Susan Austen  has been found not guilty of assisting suicide, but guilty of illegally importing drugs that can be used for suicide – but can also be used for alleviating suffering.

ODT (NZH): Euthanasia campaigner acquitted of aiding suicide

Wellington woman Susan Austen has been found not guilty of assisting suicide.

A jury delivered the verdict at the High Court in Wellington on Friday afternoon where she had been standing trial over the past two weeks.

The 67-year-old has also been found not guilty on a representative charge of importing the Class C drug pentobarbitone. However, she has been found guilty on two other charges of importing the drug.

Austen, a Lower Hutt teacher, was accused of assisting Annemarie Treadwell to take her own life in 2016, along with two other counts of importing Class C controlled drug pentobarbital, on two occasions between 2012 and 2016.

Police launched an investigation into the case after Treadwell (77) was found dead in her bedroom at a retirement village in Kilbirnie in June 2016.

The euthanasia advocate died from an overdose of pentobarbitone.

Susan Austen’s lawyer Dr Donald Stevens, QC, argued during the trial that Austen did not intend that Treadwell should commit suicide, but assisted her to obtain the pentobarbital.

“She intended that Mrs Treadwell should have control over her end of life issue – having that [drug] could have had a profound palliative effect to reduce suffering.”

Clinical psychologist Professor Glynn Owens said merely possessing “end of life” drugs, such as pentobarbital, could actually ease suffering.

“Just having the drugs reduced anxiety and can focus someone on quality of life,” the court heard.

This case highlights issues around euthanasia as David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ progresses through Parliament – it passed it’s First Reading on 13 December 2017 and is now at the public consultation select Committee stage.


  1. artcroft

     /  24th February 2018

    What I like about this case is that it highlights the deficiencies in Seymours euthanasia bill which requires someone to be terminally ill before they can be assisted into the here-after. Treadwell wasn’t terminally ill. She was “through with life” and wanted to go. And this is what the issue is ultimately about. Should anyone for any reason be denied the right to end their own lives. Not should the terminally be offered that option.

    I just hope we get good law based on a clear, definite philosophical and legal foundation. Not more of Labour’s you can take medicinal cannabis but you can’t buy it crap.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  24th February 2018

      The Seymour bill is about terminally ill people, not those who want to commit suicide. Suicide is not illegal, so there would be no point in arguing for its legalisation. That is a different issue.

  2. Zedd

     /  24th February 2018

    Good to see that ‘rational minds’ won through.. not just hysterical, irrational fear-mongering 🙂

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  24th February 2018

    Why we had to see so much of the trial, the ultimate invasion of privacy, is still a mystery to me. It’s someone’s life, not a courtroom drama.

  4. lurcher1948

     /  24th February 2018

    There will be utu extracted for the loss of the case by the crown.Expect horrendous penalties for the remaining guilty charges,thats how we do things in NZ.

  5. NOEL

     /  24th February 2018

    Susan Austen’s lawyer Dr Donald Stevens, QC, argued during the trial that Austen did not intend that Treadwell should commit suicide, but assisted her to obtain the pentobarbital.”

    Any legal beagles out there can explain why section 179 did not apply?

    • Reinvented

       /  24th February 2018

      Was this a jury trial? If so, it’s a social justice decision rather than a legal one.

  1. Guilty of importing drugs, not guilty of assisting suicide — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition