by ROWENA OREJANA
New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have called on Catholics to inform themselves about the euthanasia debate in the wake of a High Court action by a terminally ill Wellington lawyer.
Public law specialist, Lecretia Seales, 41, who has an inoperable brain tumour, filed a claim in the High Court on March 20 seeking to uphold what she calls her right to die at the time of her choosing.
She is asking the court for a declaratory judgment that would ensure her GP will not face charges under the Crimes Act 1961 if, and when, the doctor assists her to die.
The challenge reportedly closely mirrors a recent case in which the Supreme Court of Canada
overturned a criminal ban on medically assisted deaths and gave politicians 12 months to rework
In a statement signed by New Zealand’s six diocesan bishops, Catholics are encouraged to “take
some time to inform yourselves more deeply about the issue, andwhy Catholics should be opposed
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan added, “in a democratic society public opinion colours political debate. It is important therefore that people are properly informed, as the emotional
impact of stories of suffering is naturally strong”.
Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe said the Seales court action asks us “to lose sight of the sacredness of human life, a life that is always in relationship with God and with those whom we love. Life is the greatest gift that is given to us,a sacred taonga, a gift integrally – some key arguments intertwined with the gift of love”.
“At times life and love don’t come easy. All of us, at times, experience moments of struggle
and even suffering. Ironically the moments of struggle and suffering are often graced times that teach us what it is to be human and what it means to love and to be loved.
Many of us have experienced this when a loved one is dying,” added Bishop Lowe.
The bishops expressed appreciation for the doctors, nurses and caregivers.
Bishop Drennan said,“what I find most concerning is that the one voice which seems to be left
out of the debate is that of the experts: doctors, nurses and caregivers who actually work in our marvellous hospices”.
He also noted that “the New Zealand record in palliative care is a good news story which. . . Kiwi families of those living with cancer know and appreciate”.
Bishop Lowe said he is in awe of those who work with the dying “who never lose sight of the person and the sacredness of the person they care for”.
“These people are also transformed by their ministry of care,” he said. “It’s the great irony, isn’t it, that even in dying we can give life as we pass through the labour pains of being born into eternal life and the loving embrace of our God.”
The bishops also aired support for the Nathaniel Centre and the Care Alliance ”as they engage with this latest attempt to introduce euthanasia in New Zealand”.
Nathaniel Centre director John Kleinsman said at this stage it is not yet clear if this case will have an impact on legislation.
“However the case is likely to again ignite debate about the issue and it’s important for Catholics themselves to be … able to articulate some of the wide ranging social dangers of legalised euthanasia,” he stressed. “We need to understand it and voice our concerns.”