Spotlight on Parliament after Seales death

  • 05/06/2015

Prime Minister John Key says any moves by Parliament on the assisted suicide issue will be a conscience vote and the best mechanism for any change is a private members' bill.

On Friday, Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales died from a brain tumour just hours after her family were advised the High Court had not ruled in her favour in an attempt to choose when she could die.

Justice David Collins said the complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales' proceedings could only be addressed by parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act.

Her husband Matt Vickers said Ms Seales was hurt and disappointed by the judgment.

"Her reaction utterly broke my heart."

He wants parliament to pick the issue up.

"Prime Minister, I urge you to give the public what they want and start a debate. I urge you to follow my wife's example to be a courageous leader," Mr Vickers said.

Mr Key said the matter of assisted suicide was a conscience issue and therefore could be dealt with only by a conscience vote.

That process would require every individual member of parliament to vote, and the best way to do so would be through a private members' bill, he said.

"In the past, I have personally voted for euthanasia, as I do have some sympathy for that argument," he said.

Justice Collins said Ms Seales' doctor would risk being charged with murder or manslaughter if she had assisted her to die.

He also did not accept the argument that the Crimes Act was inconsistent with the right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment.

But he did acknowledge some people in palliative care suffered and took their own lives.

Earlier, former justice ministers Judith Collins and Annette King, who both knew Ms Seales, said the time was right for a parliamentary select committee inquiry, which would enable the public to make submissions.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she expected the issue to come back before parliament "at some point".

Labour spokesman Ian Lees-Galloway said the parties could honour Ms Seales by working together in a "dignified and unified" manner to consider whether the law needed changing.

Human Rights Commission legal manager Janet Anderson-Bidois said Ms Seales had ignited important public discussion.

Her death does not rule out the possibility of an appeal, legal experts say.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 0800 543 354.


source: newshub archive