Dying and the Law Lessons from the Trial of Suzy Austen
In 2018 on the other side of the world, another woman was charged with assisting a suicide. Exit’s Wellington Coordinator, Suzy Austen, was tried for assisting the suicide of fellow Exit member Annemarie Treadwell in New Zealand’s High Court. Annemarie was 77 years old and suffered from increasingly painful arthritis. She had also suffered for over 20 years from depression (especially during winter).
While the jury in Suzy’s trial ultimately found her ‘not guilty’, the case was important because it produced ‘take-home messages’ that it would be foolish to ignore.
Note: Suzy was also charged with importing Nembutal into NZ using a variety of methods and on several occasions. Suzy was found guilty of these latter offences.
By way of background, Suzy’s trial came about because an autopsy of Annemarie Treadwell revealed she had drunk a lethal dose of Nembutal. While Annemarie looked like an elderly woman who had had died peacefully in her sleep, the toxicology report said otherwise. And this is where the trouble started for Suzy Austen as Annemarie, it was discovered, had left a diary.
In this record of her life, Annemarie not only detailed her end of life plans, she mentioned certain people by name. Furthermore, she mentioned the importance of not implicating them in her suicide. In writing in her diary, however, Annemarie implicated Suzy Austen in her plans.
Lesson No 1 - Don’t leave a diary
It was Annemarie’s daughter, Veronica, who found her mother’s diary in the bedside drawer. On discovery, she innocently handed