Tributes flow for Lecretia Seales

  • 04/06/2015

Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales' family and friends are paying tribute to her this morning, following her death overnight.

Ms Seales died of natural causes at 12:35am, only hours after learning of the verdict in her assisted suicide court battle.

Family spokesperson and former Law Commission colleague Cate Brett says Ms Seales' passing was peaceful.

"Obviously it was very distressing for those who were around her, but it was brief and over quickly."

Ms Seales began having difficulty breathing at around 11:30pm, but died before medical help could arrive.

"As she wished, her husband and mother and father and family were around her," says Ms Brett.

Justice David Collins made a ruling on the case yesterday, but the outcome won't be made public until 3pm today.

"She would have been delighted, and was delighted that she lived long enough to have her day in court in what will, whatever the outcome, will be a landmark human rights case, irrespective of what the judge actually rules," says Ms Brett.

Lesley Martin was convicted in 2004 of attempting to murder her dying mother with an overdose of morphine five years earlier. She says Ms Seales made an important stand.

"We all have the right to self-autonomy in our dying," she says. "It is our life and it is our choice, and Lecretia made a very strong case for that and should be applauded and appreciated for spending her precious time and energy on this."

Justice Collins was on the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal when Ms Martin was deregistered as a nurse in 2007 following her prison sentence. He actually ruled in Ms Martin's favour, but the case was appealed to the High Court, which upheld her deregistration.

Ms Martin says she expects his ruling in Ms Seales' case will be "just, fair-minded and sympathetic", but not necessarily the outcome she hoped for.

"I still feel that he'll be tied by the law as it stands at present."

Parliament has twice promptly rejected Bills that would have changed the law to allow assisted suicide, but Ms Martin is confident should it appear a third time, it would at least reach the select committee stage.

Former Justice Minister Judith Collins says past Bills failed because they were put forward by individual MPs and "a bit short and sharp and not actually looking at all the concerns".

"One of the big problems has always been, we'd hate to see people feeling pushed into agreeing to euthanasia," she said on TV3's Paul Henry programme this morning.

"We really feel for the family today," says Labour deputy leader Annette King, also a former Justice Minister.

"What a brave thing she's done to raise the issue, because it's not going to go away. But I don't believe that the courts can make this decision. This is a Parliamentary decision that has to be made."

She agrees with Ms Collins that a private member's Bill won't cut it.

"Why not let the public have a say through a select committee inquiry, or something like that?"

Carole Sweney of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society says Ms Seales "put everything she had into [the case]".

"She obviously had a big team of friends, and that just shows something about the woman herself, so I think Lecretia's a hero."

3 News

source: newshub archive