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Kiwi convicted of mother's death hopes for pardon if euthanasia referendum passes

A man who helped thrust euthanasia into the spotlight in this country will continue plans to push for a pardon if the yes vote succeeds at the referendum.

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But with just five days to go before voting in the referendum closes, some legal experts say they have doubts about the law. Source: 1 NEWS

Sean Davison pleaded guilty in 2011 to helping his cancer-stricken mother, Patricia, die in 2006 and was sentenced to five months home detention.

He went on to live in South Africa, where he was charged with the murders of three people and is now under house arrest after accepting a plea bargain.

Kiwi man sentenced for assisted suicides of three disabled people in South Africa

Anrich Burger was a quadriplegic, Richard Holland had locked-in syndrome and Justin Varian Motor had motor neurone disease.

The plea bargain “was an easy decision” to accept, he said.

“The alternative was to go to court, and there’s a high risk of possibly getting jail sentence which in South Africa is virtually a death sentence,” he told 1 NEWS.

Davison is voicing his support of the End of Life Choice Act referendum.

“If the proposed law change was in place, my mother would not have gone on a hunger strike to end her life if she knew she had the option of an assisted death,” he said.

But Davison’s support for change comes as many lawyers continue to have issues with the act and urge a "no" vote.

Under the act, anyone asking for assisted dying has to fulfil several criteria.

But Davison says those conditions should be expanded to include others who are not terminally ill.

“To me it is very good, it’s a very good start,” he said.

“But not included in this, people with irrecoverable illnesses like motor neuron disease and quadriplegics.”

He said they too should be given an option of assisted death “should they want it”.

Senior lawyer Grant Illingworth QC told 1 NEWS those comments are “a red flag” and the act is already not fit for purpose.

“The set of rules that have been prepared for this issue are shoddy. They have not been drafted to the required standard and they do not do the job that we need them to do,” he told 1 NEWS.

Illingworth said a group of almost 200 other lawyers is opposed.

“The biggest mistake that’s being made at the moment is that people are voting on the question of compassion and choice instead of voting on the particular set of rules that we’re being asked to vote about.”

There was nothing to protect vulnerable people being bullied, he said

“The referendum is not about compassion and not about choice. It’s about a set of rules that have been enacted by Parliament and the public of New Zealand are being asked to vote on that set of rules,” he told 1 NEWS.

He said he had never been part of any campaign before and did not plan on being involved in future ones.

“This is an important issue because it raises questions of life and death for very, very vulnerable people,” he said.

Davison, a medical scientist, was recently struck off in New Zealand because of his South African convictions in a move he said was “a little bit unfair”.

“The reason it was murder convictions in South Africa is because I accepted a plea bargain to avoid going to jail because of the nature of the South African jails.

“If I was in New Zealand I would not have pleaded guilty to murder and I would have gone to trial in the hope that a jury in New Zealand would have found me not guilty,” he said.

“I find it a little bit strange that being charged of assisting people to end their unbearable suffering makes me unfit to practise as a medical scientist, but that was the decision that was made.”

If the yes vote succeeds, Davison told 1 NEWS he will continue a push for a pardon for the conviction over his mother’s death.

A pardon would make a “huge difference” to his life and close what he called “a very sad and tragic chapter”.

“It would certainly bring honour to my mother and to her death.”