Groups to participate in euthanasia hearing

  • 24/04/2015

Groups for and against euthanasia have won the right to participate in the hearing of a 42-year-old woman wanting to die.

Lecretia Seales, a lawyer who has terminal brain cancer, is asking the High Court at Wellington for a declaratory judgment that would protect her GP from prosecution if, and when, her doctor assists her to die.

Ms Seales argues she has a right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment under the Bill of Rights Act.

The Care Alliance, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and the Human Rights Commission sought approval from the High Court on Tuesday to participate in the hearing on May 25.

In a decision yesterday, Justice David Collins said he would allow it with stringent conditions to prevent delays, because it may assist him to make a decision.

"The declarations Ms Seales seeks are cast very precisely and are not intended to have a wide application," Justice Collins said.

"Nevertheless, the issue of whether or not a person in Ms Seales' circumstances can be assisted to end her life ... raises significant legal and ethical issues that are of intense public importance."

The Human Rights Commission would provide impartial submissions.

The Care Alliance would produce evidence on the impact on the decision on those suffering from mental illness.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society would submit evidence of national and international statistics, medical data, legal changes and challenges.

"I will decide at the hearing if any intervener can make oral submissions," Justice Collins said.

Ms Seales said she was concerned the applicants were successful, but pleased there were restrictions.

"My time is limited, and additional legal counsel and evidence that is not relevant to my circumstances risk lengthening my hearing, and the risk that I will not be alive to receive a judgment."

She did want to encourage a conversation about euthanasia in New Zealand, but wider debate should be held in parliament, she said.

"This case is about my circumstances and my circumstances only."

Ms Seales is entering a phase of palliative care, after being told yesterday the latest round of chemotherapy hasn't worked.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society hopes to be able to support Ms Seales' arguments in court.

"This is a personal matter for Lecretia and needs to be resolved quickly, but just this month a Research New Zealand poll found 74 per cent of New Zealanders surveyed believe people suffering a painful incurable disease should get the support she is seeking," president Dr Jack Havill said.

The Care Alliance says the decision could set a dangerous precedent which would harm society's vulnerable people.


source: newshub archive