Wellington right-to-die case could set precedent

  • 21/04/2015

In a New Zealand first, the fight to allow a Wellington lawyer to die on her terms has taken its first step in court today.

Lucretia Seales has terminal brain cancer and the 42-year-old wants her GP to administer a lethal dose of drugs to allow her to die if she chooses.

She's taken her fight to the High Court, where today her lawyers fought to not allow outside organisations who have taken an interest to get involved in the case.

Ms Seales says she doesn't want to die, but terminal brain cancer gives her no choice.  

The lawyer and former advisor at the Law Commission is now challenging New Zealand's laws by asking the High Court to uphold her right to die, when she chooses.

"Assisted suicide is not a no-no subject anymore; it is something that societies have considered and allowed," says Dr Petra Butler, associate professor at Victoria University School of Law.

Now the Human Rights Commission, Voluntary Euthanasia and Care Alliance want to join her court action.

Care Alliance says if Ms Seales gets her wish it would set a dangerous precedent and could be applied to anyone with a terminal illness.

"Ultimately, in New Zealand's constitutional makeup it will be Parliament and therefore New Zealand society to decide overall what will happen in regard to assisted suicide in New Zealand," says Dr Butler.

In a blog post, Ms Seales' husband Matt said: "If Lecretia were to commit suicide, she would need to do it alone, as anyone else present would risk a criminal conviction. The act would be extremely traumatic for her and her family. It's not an option."

The decision by Justice David Collins on whether these organisations can be involved will be reserved, but a week-long hearing is set down for May 25. Ms Seales' lawyer hopes she'll get a decision by then. He's indicated time is running out.

It's not certain if Ms Seales will be at any of her court proceedings; she's spending time with family out of Wellington.

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source: newshub archive