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Elderly women in police euthanasia probe

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/10/2016

Police have seized items from the homes of elderly women in Wellington and Nelson which has sparked criticism of political interference from a voluntary euthanasia group.

A shop-bought helium balloon kit was taken from 76-year-old Nelson woman Patsy McGrath, who has long campaigned for euthanasia, on Friday, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society says.

The balloon kit was seized because police believed it was "evidence in respect of a suspected crime: aiding and abetting suicide".

Police also confirmed two charges of importing a Class C drug had been laid against a Lower Hutt woman but were saying no more about the investigation.

The raids smack of interference into the current parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying, society president Maryan Street says.

She said the two Lower Hutt women who were subject to police searches were part of another group Exit International. However, she questioned how they got a search warrant and wondered who would be searched next.

"If this action against Patsy and possibly others deters or intimidates anyone about to present their submission to the health committee, then it will be seen to be an intrusion on the legitimate political activities of New Zealand citizens."

Suicide was not illegal, she said.

"The police need to back away from this activity unless they wish to be viewed as having their strings pulled by people with a political agenda of their own - namely to oppose a law change."

Australian-based founder of Exit International, Philip Nitschke, tweeted his criticism of both the police action and Ms Street's society.

"Neither NZ police nor NZ #euthanasia society get it - end of life choice is a right, not just a medical privilege!" he said.

ACT Party leader David Seymour has described the police action as gratuitous.

"Surely the police understand there's a formal political process currently underway around the Voluntary Euthanasia Society's petition?" he said.

"Even if it's just one group that's been targeted, there's a concerning possibility that other assisted dying campaigners will feel intimidated, with less confidence to campaign publicly."

Parliament's health committee is hearing submissions on public attitudes to voluntary euthanasia.

However, Family First's Bob McCoskrie says police are "absolutely correct" to shut down Exit International's operations here.

"Nitschke promotes suicide, has left a trail of destruction, and is evidence of just how far some euthanasia advocates will take an assisted suicide law if it was ever introduced," he said.

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