Queensland man jailed over assisted suicide

A Queensland man has become the first to be sentenced to a full-time jail term for assisting a suicide. Merin Nielson, 50, received a six-month sentence for supplying an 76-year-old friend, Frank Ward, with the lethal drug Nembutal in 2009.

Ward had various ailments and was distressed by a decade of looking after his late wife, but was not seriously ill. In 2007, after a minor stroke, he made Nielson, a former school teacher who is studying for a PhD in philosophy, a beneficiary of his will and gave him power of attorney. Nielson appears to have put him in touch with the suicide group Exit International, headed by activist Dr Philip Nitschke.

Finally Ward gave his friend $7,000 to buy the banned drug in Mexico. After Nielson returned, Ward was found dead in his apartment with a suicide note beside him.

Dr Nitschke said the sentence was harsh (although the maximum sentence is life imprisonment). "The fact remains we are looking at people who are not violent criminals, they are acting out of compassion and love, meeting the full force of the law here, which is simply showing its inflexibility when it comes to this issue," he said. ~ Australian, Feb 17

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