The Lesley Martin story

Lesley Martin was convicted under NZ law of the attempted murder of her mother Joy Martin, with an overdose of morphine on May 28 1999, nearly five years after the event. She was not convicted on a concurrent charge of attempting to murder her mother by smothering her with a pillow.

The conviction occurred after she published a book in which she claimed to have made two attempts to kill her mother.

She denied both charges in court, but was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison. She initially refused to apply for home detention. When she was persuaded by family and friends to apply, her appeal was rejected.

She was released in December 2004 after serving half of her 15 month jail term.

Leslie Martin's Background
Born in Luton, England, on August 14, 1963 she lived in Wanganui from the age of three. Her family emigrated in 1966 with Michael, now 42, the oldest by 18 months and Louise, 36, born six months after they arrived in New Zealand.

Martin is a determined woman who has always fought for what she wants. From the time she was a teenager and wanted to ride horses 'no' was never an option for her. She begged for grazing rights from local farmers and horses from local racing stables when told by her parents they could not afford a horse.

Michael Martin agreed saying of his sister says of his sister: "She was a pain in the arse." He added that her compulsive streak and determination enabled her to achieve her goals. Michael however, maintained a close relationship with Martin whereas sister Louise Britton has not.

Britton says that her sister had an: "I'm 'it' and what I say goes" attitude. Britton is highly critical of the way her mother Joy died and states of Martin: "she loves to be in the limelight. It's a private matter the way my mum died. She's not the only daughter here."

Martin says this of her relationship with her sister: "We grew to quite different personalities and made different choices for ourselves and I think that's probably the kindest way of putting it."

Martin's resolve has helped her over the years and she has been successful in many arenas. After training as a nurse in her teens she married young and had a baby while only 20. Her marriage however did not last more than a year.

In 1986, she went to England to train as a midwife, taking her young son with her. "I went to England with a one-way ticket and a child and a stroller and a backpack."

She worked for a time in intensive-care units in London, then began travelling. With son Matthew she went to Cyprus, and France, returning to Wanganui by the end of 1987. She then took flying lessons, managing to qualify as a commercial pilot whilst working at a local hospital.

She went back overseas in 1991 but now left her son with her parents. After returning, she and Matthew moved to Queensland's Gold Coast, where Martin worked two jobs, flying a seaplane during the week and working night shifts as a hospital nurse.

She became pregnant from a brief relationship and son Sean was born in April 1994. In spite of difficulties arising from raising her first born she never considered abortion. "I'm actually anti-abortion and pro-voluntary euthanasia because my personal belief is that once life is conceived, it belongs unto that life. I had a responsibility to do the best by the baby."

Martin's father died suddenly from a heart attack while she was pregnant. She flew home in time to say goodbye to him. Joy flew to Australia to be with her when Sean was born.

Unable to fly now with the arrival of her new son, she started several small businesses but nursing provided her stable income. In 1997 a work related accident meant she had to find alternative work so took up telephone counselling.

A phone call at Christmas 1998 changed her life irrevocably. It was Joy, calling to say she had been diagnosed with rectal cancer. Martin's sister says money was provided by Aunt Ena, Joy's sister, to enable Martin to return home to Wanganui.

The Circumstances of Joy Martin's Death
Joy Martin went in for surgery for rectal cancer on January 21 1999. A photo of Joy Martin was taken with her three children before going into hospital.

Unfortunately complications arose from the surgery and infection set in. She had to go back into the operating theatre twice more and was in intensive care for two weeks and was then discharged from hospital.

After her discharge she was repeatedly nauseous and was readmitted to hospital twice although the reason was never ascertained. Eventually in April 1999 a CT scan was carried out which showed that Joy Martin had terminal liver cancer.

Joy Martin turned down further surgery and elected instead to go home to be cared for by her daughter, an experienced intensive care nurse. Martin had a unit next door to her mother.

Joy's son Michael also lived on site enabling them to share the burden of their mother's care. Michael however had a job which involved travelling and was away in the week that Joy Martin died.

Joy Martin suffered vomiting, dehydration, bleeding from her kidneys as well as bleeding into a colostomy bag. All in all the news wasn't good for Joy Martin.

Many trusted Martin to care for her mother as she had 14 years of nursing experience and was trained in intensive care. However the one variable that no one seemed to have taken into account was Martin's close emotional bond to her mother.

Martin said before being arrested, that her mother had said she did not want to die "inch by inch" as Martin's grandparents had. "I promised her I wouldn't let that happen."

It was general practitioner Dr Chilcott who initially referred Mrs Martin to a cancer specialist when she was diagnosed in late 1998 and who later prescribed morphine and other drugs after she was discharged from hospital in April 1999. Confident in Martin's ability to inject morphine into her mother he described the process as: "very, very common and very, very easy."

Expecting it to be administered in 10mg doses every four to eight hours he prescribed 100mg, enough for three days. On the evening of May 25 she gave her mother another top up of morphine.

Martin Confesses to Nurse Before Joy Martin's Death
A district nurse Wiki Alward arrived the next day to set up a syringe driver to automatically administer the drug. She was told to set it to deliver just 10mg every 24 hours and by the time it was set up Lesley Martin had already given her mother 40mg over the previous 18 hours. On the evening of May 27 Martin gave her mother another 60 mg of morphine, a huge overdose.

Nurse Alward had no idea when she set up the syringe driver that Martin had been supplementing the dosage from the stock-pile she had been entrusted with. She found out on May 28 when she arrived to discover that all 120mg of morphine had gone. Nurse Alward challenged Martin over the dosage.

"She [Martin] told me her mother was in severe pain and that she had to give her all the morphine," Ms Alward said. "It was a huge increase from 10mg to 60mg. I found it hard to believe her mother had that much pain. I did not trust Lesley Martin at that point. I asked her doctor not to issue any further medication to Lesley, that I would collect it myself."

Nurse Alward recalled the conversation she had with Martin:

"Lesley Martin told me she had given her mother the medication not because she had pain but because she didn't want her mother to die a long, slow, painful death. She said they had discussed euthanasia. I told Lesley she had committed a crime and that what she had done was against the law. I told her that she had breached the trust that I and her mother's GP had in her."

Strong Emotional Bond Developed
Martin's brother Michael gave evidence in court how Martin and her mother had developed a very strong bond due to the nature of their shared circumstances. He said: "You can't describe how close they were after what they had been through together, ugly things."

Michael was concerned that his sister was getting exhausted from the responsibility of looking after their mother. He even described at one low ebb how she had made an offhand comment: "She said, 'Mike, if there was a switch I could throw I'd do it right now'."

Martin Offered Help With Care
Lyn Stokes worked closely with Joy Martin at the time of her illness in her capacity as an oncology and palliative care social worker at Wanganui Base Hospital. She stated at Martin's trial: "I talked with her about death and dying. She indicated she was not afraid of dying. We talked at length about it."

She thought Martin coped well with the care of her mother until a visit to their home on May 21 when she noticed Martin was looking exhausted and her mother's condition had got worse. She stated: "I felt the strain on Lesley was building because of her home situation and Joy's deterioration. I persuaded them bringing someone else in from hospice was really important."

Martin not only had her mother to care for but two sons. She also had to clean two units and shop and cook for her family. There were also financial issues for Martin whose primary job now was to care for her mother. Mrs Stokes said in court that her referral on May 21 was based on the need for personal support systems, not medical issues.

Hospice workers and doctors disputed Martin's defence that she was left alone and unable to cope, saying that Martin refused offers of help.

The Aftermath
Sergeant Ross Grantham first spoke with Martin the day Joy died. In an "off the record" conversation she told him that she had injected her mother with a 60mg dose of morphine two nights earlier and also how she had held a pillow over her mother's head until she stopped breathing.

An autopsy showed no evidence of suffocation, but toxicology reports showed a fatal level of morphine in Joy Martin's blood and liver.

According to Dr David Richmond, an Auckland professor emeritus (geriatric medicine), "Research in the Netherlands has shown that even when performed by a medical practitioner, about 10 per cent of attempts at euthanasia and 30 per cent of physician-assisted suicides were complicated by severe side-effects, including failure of the procedure on the first pass. That is hardly death with dignity."

In spite of this knowledge, police closed the investigation after 10 months and no charges were laid against Martin.

Mr Cameron said police relaunched the homicide investigation after Martin claimed in her book, "To Die Like A Dog", that she had tried to kill her mother.

She was arrested and charged in March 2003 as a result of that and other evidence gathered during the police investigation, including previous ?off the record' statements she made to Detective Sergeant Ross Grantham, the officer in charge of the case.

Martin was released on bail, but was forbidden from doing media interviews, promoting her pro-euthanasia views publicly or privately and further promoting sales of her book, To Die Like a Dog. She was also required to live at her Wanganui address, surrender her passport and report once a week to the police station.

Martin appealed against bail conditions which prevented her from talking publicly on any subject. The gagging order was lifted and although she still could not discuss her case, she could talk generally about the right-to-die debate. She was also given permission to go to Australia for an Exit Australia Conference.

A depositions hearing in Wanganui District Court in August 2003 came to the decision that Martin must go to trial for killing her mother. She was given bail and remanded until November 18 for a High Court callover.

Dr Philip Nitschke, Australia's most prominent euthanasia activist, told New Zealand National Radio he was not surprised that Martin would face trial, but he had been in regular contact with her and she was always aware of the risks of publishing the details of her mother's death.

"She also made it clear in her mind, and I totally agree with her, that unless these things do go to trial there's less likelihood there will ever be change in the rather oppressive legislation both your country and mine are saddled with."

He said that in Australia mercy killers who had pleaded guilty had usually received very light sentences, but it took extreme courage to plead not guilty and challenge the established legal and political process.

EXIT New Zealand
In July 2003, Exit New Zealand was formally set up with Nitschke's help.

He told Newstalk ZB: "We have got quite a few people from New Zealand who have made contact and have become members. It just seemed it was necessary to have some local organisational structure for these people so they could be effectively served."

Nitschke
Dr Nitschke, who has supported Martin from the beginning of her decision to actively pursue the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand, was also present when Martin walked free from jail. Nitschke helped four patients commit suicide under Australia's Northern Territory euthanasia legislation before the federal government overturned it. Read more about Dr Nitschke here.

The Case
On March 15 2004 Martin faced a jury in the High Court at Wanganui over the death of her mother in May 1999.

Each of the jury members was presented with a copy of Martin's book "To Die Like a Dog" after which Justice John Wild, who presided over the case, invited them to read it.

Dr Stevens QC who acted for Martin based his evidence on the fact that Martin was stressed and tired and should never have been responsible for the care of her own mother. He stated in court:

"The evidence in this case will be that Lesley Martin should never have been left to look after her own mother because she was so close to her mother."

Nearly a week after the trial started the court was surprised by shocking testimony from Pam Ward, a close friend of Joy Martin for many years. She said she had visited her friend regularly through her illness including the days of May 25 and 26. They spoke virtually daily for over thrifty years. She said Martin told her by phone on May 27: "I couldn't have given her enough."

After the call Ward claims she was so shocked she could not remember the rest of the conversation. She visited the house later that day to find Joy in a coma.

"I assumed that Joy had an excess of morphine," she told the court." She later wrote in her diary: "overdose last night?" She failed to mention this to the police at the time because: "It wasn't specifically put to us."

Later in the trial Mrs Britton, Martin's sister said that according to Martin, seeing a tear in her mother's eye was what had 'pushed her overboard.' Martin told Britton she had never seen her mother cry prior to this time.

Detective Sergeant Grantham gave evidence that he warned Martin when she told him she planned to write a book, originally called Love Joy but later published as To Die Like A Dog, that police would re-open the investigation and that she risked being charged. 

The Verdict
As the jury retired to consider the verdict in the Martin case on the 31 March 2004, Justice Wild who presided over the case, directed the jury. He said: "You may feel that as the jury you are effectively being asked to decide for New Zealand that euthanasia should be made lawful or unlawful."

He added that was the job for Parliament to decide. "You may feel sympathy towards Lesley Martin. You must reach your decision based on the facts."

After six hours the jury returned with a guilty verdict for Martin in attempting to murder her mother by injecting her with 60mg of morphine but not guilty of attempting to suffocate her with a pillow. New Zealand has no defence of diminished responsibility.

Martin cried out "this is unjust" as her verdict was read out in court. She urged the public to fight to change the law before bursting into tears.

She then made maximum use of her time in the spotlight to campaign for euthanasia.

"This is people caught between legislation and love. There are so many people in the country in my position and I'm just trying everything I can to bring this to a head. The time has come to address this issue. People have to get off their bums and do something about this, otherwise more and more people are going to end up in my position."

Martin's sister Britton felt the verdict was a fair one, "I want her to be found guilty and go to jail for what she did," she said. Still sounding bitter over the very public death of her mother she said of Martin: "She is not a nice person, my sister. If you cross her she will make your life a living hell."

The Sentence
The maximum penalty for attempted murder is 14 years.

After the guilty verdict was announced Martin's lawyer, Stevens, requested she not be immediately convicted as he intended to apply for a discharge without conviction. Justice Wild agreed and granted Martin bail on continuation of previous bail conditions.

One probation service report recommended imprisonment because of a lack of remorse, the other made no recommendation.

Stephens argued on Martin's behalf that a conviction was punishment enough as it prevented her from continuing with her work to campaign against law changes allowing euthanasia.

Crown prosecutor Cameron stated that justice must be seen to be done in this instance and that anything less would undermine the justice system. "Sanctity of life underpins our law in the most fundamental way."

He cited similar cases where people had received between 1-3 year jail sentences. He acknowledged the stress Martin was under at the time of her mother's death but stated that countless other New Zealanders coped with circumstances just as difficult. He stated that better palliative care for her mother was an option for Joy Martin in the last days of her life.

Martin was sentenced to 15 months in jail on the 30 April 2004. The sentence was met by silence in the court room.

Immediately following the verdict Stevens announced he would be appealing both the conviction and the sentence. Exit NZ spokesman Paul Stannard said the organisation would be backing Martin's appeal.

When her sentence was handed down she responded to the NZPA by stating: "If they deem this crime to be so heinous as to warrant a jail term, then I'll do it in jail."

A jail term of two year or less enables the person to apply for home detention. Martin was given leave to apply for home detention. Martin spoke out against that option stating: "I refuse to have my home be my prison."

Crown prosecutor Andrew Cameron remarked, "That smacks of wanting to make a martyr of herself".

Mr Fulljames who is now married to Martin was upset at his wife's opposition to home detention. "I'm really gutted. I keep saying, 'What about me and what about Seanie?' I have supported her totally through this. She is absolutely committed to the cause and she has done a lot of good, but now is the time for her to realise that she has a family that love her and want her at home."

Other supporters of Martin had similar comments to make, Exit NZ member Bruce Corney said she should "pull her head in". "She tested the system and the system's spat her back out," he said. "It's not just about her, there's a whole lot of other people involved. I think people have had enough of her." He emailed Exit NZ supporters to write to Martin to ask her to reconsider.

Similar Case - The Law case
In August 2002 Rex Law, 77, of Thames was jailed for only 18 months after admitting murdering his wife Olga five months earlier. He was the first convicted murderer to escape a life sentence under the 2002 Sentencing Act. Law said he hit his wife's head with a mallet and smothered her with a pillow because of a pact between them. She suffered from Alzheimer's.

Discrepancies
Donald Stephens QC, lawyer for Martin, claimed in trial and later in an appeal hearing that Martin's "admissions" were the result of exhaustion. Martin herself however has come out publicly many times during and since the trial to state that what she did she would do again. Her intent was to spare her mother from suffering by shortening her life.

'Cognitive dissonance', or memory distortion was a phrase often used during the trial of Martin. Professor Richard Glynn Owens, a Welsh professor of forensic and clinical psychology and expert in end-of-life care flew to New Zealand to give evidence in the trial. He told the court that cognitive dissonance was "the way in which our recollection of events may become changed because we need to resolve two things in our minds which appear to conflict".

He stated events in Martin's book "To Die Like a Dog" may not have happened. "Memory can mislead us terribly."

Professor Owens said he thought that, as Martin had been against euthanasia at the time of her mother's death, perhaps her admission was tailored to suit her new belief, that helping her mother to die would have been the appropriate course of action for someone with these new beliefs.

However witnesses from the time, Pam Ward, Wiki Alward and Sergeant Grantham all stated that Martin had confessed to them quite openly at the time of Joy Martin's death that she had tried to end her mother's life.

Another argument thrown up by the defence was that Martin was stressed and exhausted at the time she killed her mother and was therefore not responsible for her actions. This does not fit her claims during and since the trial that she was fully aware of what she had done and would do it again.

"She cannot have it both ways," Mr Cameron the prosecutor for the Crown said. "She cannot campaign for euthanasia ... as the personal face of the euthanasia debate ... then in court deny she is that personal face because she did not form the intent to carry out the act which she has described."

Wanganui Hospice chief executive Tom Joll was reported in the Sunday Star Times as saying that the social worker's case notes showed that Joy Martin had been able to get up and answer the door just one week before her death. "Joy then returned to her bed where she is reported as being, albeit obviously unwell, 'most comfortable'. Although there was a rapid decline after that date, this does not imply the long, painful, lingering condition which has been presented to us."

Poster Girl for Euthanasia
Martin's trial and subsequent sentencing has attracted international attention ever since the book first hit the bookshops. The trial turned into a media circus which Martin repeated used as a platform to air her views on euthanasia.

She stated: "I don't have all the answers to all the questions. I have set the ball rolling. It's up to people in positions far greater than mine to push it forward. Hopefully I will come out the other end intact, with a marriage and family intact."

Many people had joined Exit NZ, the organisation she formed to advocate law change. She asked supporters to gather outside police stations the morning of her sentencing to show their concern about the law. She urged them not to be disruptive or waste police time by trying to register complaints.

"This is a legal issue but police don't make the law."

Martin also had her book adapted for the stage by director and actress Joan Street. This was performed in Wanganui shortly after she was sentenced with Wanganui mayoral candidate Michael Laws as narrator. There has been speculation as to the possibility of a movie.

Prior to her trial Martin and Nitschke took part in a series of end-of-life forums and debates around the country. The University debates were poorly advertised and audiences consisted primarily of voluntary euthanasia supporters, and students supporting the university debate teams. A TV One camera crew was also on hand as they were filming a documentary on Martin. 

At the Auckland debate international euthanasia opponent Brian Johnston was present, and challenged the speakers in the question and answer session that followed. This was filmed by the camera crew but did not make the news. Read more about (euthanasiakeyissues28/) media bias here.

Johnston, the author of Death as a Salesman, which is also on video and DVD, had travelled to New Zealand from California to provide, he explained to media, a counterpoint to Nitschke. After the debate when Martin suggested he buy a copy of her book, he suggested they exchange copies of their books.

On her release from jail on the 13 December 2004 she was adamant she would be returning to her work campaigning for changes to the euthanasia law early in 2005.

"This is part of bringing more awareness to the whole issue of voluntary euthanasia and the situations people find themselves in because we don't have decent legislation."

She added: "If I can just continue to tell people what it's really like, and make them apply it to themselves and think quietly what they would do in certain situations and the options they would want to have then it will have been worth it. Even one day in prison is too much for somebody who was in the position that I was in."

The Martin family is now awaiting the outcome of a Court of Appeal decision on her appeal against conviction and sentence. 

The Outcome
The death of Joy Martin has certainly highlighted the need for quality palliative care in New Zealand.

At Martin's trial, palliative care specialist Professor Roderick MacLeod, of the University of Otago Medical School and a specialist in care of the terminally ill said both Martin and her mother had been let down by inadequate health services, which had not provided the planning or support they needed. He felt that there should have been a conference of all health workers concerned with Joy Martin's care before her discharge from hospital with some unified plan of care the result of the meeting.

At the trial Professor MacLeod stated that it was quite normal for dying people to feel "scared and frightened". He continued:

"And when they ask me to kill them, which they do, I talk about that with them and basically the vast majority of them are saying they don't want to live like this, which is entirely different from saying they want to be dead."

In summing up his thoughts about Joy Martin he stated: "The perception that there is nothing more I could have done is one that I find unacceptable. Had they heard and understood her anguish, there may well have been something they could have done."

New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown designed legislation that would have allowed the terminally ill to seek help to end their lives. This bill was defeated in Parliament in July 2003. His Death with Dignity Bill was voted down by 60 to 57 votes. MP's were instructed to follow their own conscience on the vote. He is however reviving his bill and plans another attempt and is reworking details to improve its clarity.

Dr Tricia Briscoe, Medical Association chairwoman said doctors should not become involved in euthanasia because it was considered unethical in the profession. "Our job is to care, to provide comfort, not kill."

Dr Briscoe said that patients should be allowed to refuse treatment and access sufficient good pain relief to make them comfortable, even if the provision of such relief were to result in their death. However, she said, of vital importance was the reason it was to provide pain relief, not to bring on death.

Deja vu
Derek Humphrey, an international euthanasia activist,  wrote the book "Jean's Way" detailing how he had killed his wife in 1975 when she was terminally ill. This is a similar work to Martin's in that it is a form of confession. In the book he claims that his wife Jean asked him to help her to die as she had bone cancer with secondary complications.

When his wife died the local GP assumed it was the cancer that had killed her and signed the death warrant accordingly.

When "Jean's Way" was published in 1978 to a mixed reception, one of Humphreys' critics decided to inform police of his part in the death of his wife. Police were obliged to act upon the complaint and a very senior officer appeared to interview Humphreys. He immediately stated he was guilty of breaking the law citing a moral obligation which he claimed transcended the law.

The public prosecutor decided not to charge Humphreys with any offence. Humphreys claims: "the `crime' was then more than three years old and evidence would be difficult to marshal. Another reason for clemency, no doubt, was that substantial public opinion was demonstrably in favour of Jean's solution." (ERGO Website -Humphreys essay - How to help others to die)

Since then Humphreys has come to be known as the public face for euthanasia world wide. He founded the Hemlock Society in Britain (now known as Final Exit) and has written other books on the subject of euthanasia and assisted suicide. (In the United States, the Hemlock Society is now known as End-of-Life Choices.)

One cannot help but draw a parallel between Humphreys and Martin.

Both confessed in book form of a crime they had committed. The only difference being that Martin was charged with the crime of murder while Humphrys was not. This could also be the reason for her cry of "injustice" when her guilty verdict was announced. Perhaps she too thought she could get away with it because of the passage of time that had elapsed since her mother's death.

Unfortunately for Martin she had told too many people about what she had done, so there were no shortage of witnesses to come forward and support the confession in her book.

Too late to say goodbye
In Dying Like a Dog, Martin wrote that the night before her mother died, her brother arrived home after Joy had become unconscious. He initially thought his mother was dead, saying "I'm too late ..." "No," Martin replied, "but you're too late to say goodbye." She also told him on his enquiry that she hadn't sent for their sister Louise because, she said, her mother had told her not to.

According to the book, at 1am in the morning Martin sent her brother to bed to get some rest. The arrangement was that he would return at 4am. Joy had remained unconscious throughout until, at 3:50am Joy's hand dropped from the side of the bed. That is when she saw tears in Joy's "... dying, staring eyes..." If Joy had regained a level of consciousness, why did she not wait for her brother so that he could say his goodbyes? He was due to turn up within the next few minutes anyway.

In a NZ Herald interview, Britton said her sister was selfish because she told no one what she intended to do, and then chose to end her mother's life on the birthday of her mother's only sister, Ena Cole. "I've got a 13-year-old boy who hates Lesley Martin because he didn't have a chance to say goodbye to his Nana. We all feel the same." (NZ Herald 03. 04 2004)

Off with the old
Christchurch MP Tim Barnett announced on February 1, 2005 that he wants to see voluntary euthanasia on Labour's post-election social reform agenda. Barnett who championed the prostitution reform and civil union legislation in New Zealand, believes Martin "has the right style for getting attention in a contemporary environment, even though her message is hard for some people to take."

Two weeks later Martin announced that she was severing ties with Dr Nitschke, saying she could no longer support his controversial methods. She has also renaming her lobby group Exit New Zealand, calling it Dignity New Zealand.

14 February - Martin's 2nd appeal against her conviction and sentence were dismissed. Among the reasons given for the dismissal were:
[168]"This is not a case of a person driven to the depths of anguish and despair, acting impulsively and otherwise with greatly diminished responsibility. It is a case of a professional nurse acting deliberately. Her stance, as we have noted, has been equivocal, depending on whether her audience is public or judicial.

But in the end it is a case of the deliberate taking of a life. It cannot fairly be said that in vindicating the sanctity of human life and the authority of our criminal law, the imposition of the particular sentence was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle. Read the full transcription

The TV One Documentary
The documentary aired on Thursday 15th September 2005. The TV Guide in the New Zealand Listener, promoted it as the 'Doco of the Week' saying:

"At times, it's almost too intimate as the camera lingers while she tries to explain the situation to her youngest son, reminisces about her mother and has a blazing row with her husband Warren. It's awkward enough to watch Martin, bourbon and Coke in hand, bowed under the cumulative effect of the prosecution's testimony, shrieking and swearing at Warren - but put Philip Nitschke (Australia's euthanasia enthusiast "Dr Death") in the corner of the room, and it's only a manic Frenchman short of a farce."

They also expressed doubt that the documentary would do much to promote the euthanasia cause.

Martin said she found watching the documentary, The Promise, very emotional, particularly as it features her older brother Michael, who died after a truck crash in April 2005.