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Church in NZ says court verdict highlights need to support carers

In the midst of widespread criticism of a court decision to acquit a man of killing his disabled daughter, the New Zealand Catholic Church's Nathaniel Centre for ethics has stressed that the obligation to care for society's most vulnerable includes support for carers themselves.

The acquittal of a 34 year old father from the South Island city of Nelson on charges of murdering his brain-damaged daughter on murder and manslaughter charges has been described by the Crippled Children Society as a "frightening precendent".

But the Church's Nathaniel Centre spokesperson John Kleinsman has said the case is about the tragedy of a "deeply upset parent who was pushed too far and who had almost no support, snapped under the pressure".

He asserted that it was not euthanasia.

"The man's lawyer, the judge's comments, and the jury's verdict have clearly established that there was a lack of intent to kill the baby in the Nelson case, which is not the same as the intentional killing which takes place in a euthanasia scenario."

"The case prompts us to reflect again on the key principles which form the basis of a just and caring society. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The right to life is not dependent on a person's health, ability or disability. Those who are disabled have the same right to life and protection as all others. In fact, in light of their vulnerability they require greater protection.

"The mark of a caring society is its willingness and ability to care for those who are most vulnerable. That includes ensuring that caregivers and parents are well-supported at all stages of a disabled child's life."

Catholic Church comment on Nelson father's acquittal (Catholic Communications New Zealand 19/11/04)
Case sets "frightening precedent" (One News 19/11/04)

Nathaniel Centre
New Zealand jury acquits man who admitted to killing brain-damaged baby daughter (Catholic News Agency 20/11/04)
Acquittal for man who admitted to killing baby (Catholic World News 19/11/04)
Father should not have got off, says dead baby's doctor (New Zealand HErald 21/11/04)
Editorial: Decision on baby killing was wrong (New Zealand Herald 20/11/04)
Concern about value of disabled children (Newstalk ZB 19/11/04)

22 Nov 2004