by PETER GRACE
A brain cancer sufferer who had argued in court she should be allowed the right to have
assistance, if required, to kill herself, has died.
Lecretia Seales died of natural causes in Wellington at 12.35am on June 5.
In the last few days of her life, Mary Potter Hospice, Wellington, supported Ms Seales’ husband, Matt Vickers, her mother Shirley Seales and Capital and Coast DHB, with Ms Seales’
care. The Catholic hospice is the oldest hospice in New Zealand.
Eleven days earlier, on May 25, Justice Collins began hearing an application from her legal team that a doctor should be able to help her kill herself, should she or her husband judge that the time for that action had come, without the doctor suffering legal penalty.
Shortly before she died, and before it became public, Lecretia Seales was told of Justice
Her application was denied.
Justice David Collins ruled that Ms Seales had no right under current law to assisted suicide.
He also made it clear that it is a matter for Parliament to deal with.
Family Life NZ communications director Michelle Kaufman wrote on June 6 that her organisation’s condolences went out to Ms Seales’ friends and family.
Fear of unbearable pain
Mrs Kaufman pointed out that one of Ms Seales’ fears was being in unbearable pain.
On May 30, her husband, Matt Vickers, wrote: “Lecretia is not well. Her eyes are closed most
of the time. She is having trouble swallowing. She is talking less and less. But she is facing all this without complaint. She says she has no pain, and she has not taken any painkillers.”
Ms Seales and her lawyers had argued that her doctor would not be assisting her to commit
suicide (prohibited by section 179b of the Crimes Act). Instead they were asking for what
they termed “facilitated aid in dying”, which they defined as:
. . . a medical practitioner, or a person acting under the supervision of a medical practitioner in the context of a patient/physician relationship, making available to a patient the means by which the patient may bring about his or her own death where the patient: is competent to do so, and consents to that means; and is suffering from a grievous and terminal illness that causes enduring intolerable suffering to the individual in the circumstances of his or her illness.
But Justice Collins did not accept that argument.
Her team also sought a second declaration: the right not to be deprived of life and the right
not to be “subjected . . . to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment” (Bill of Rights Act #8 and 9). They argued that if she was unable to kill herself, that would amount to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment.
However, Justice Collins ruled that the relevant provisions of the Crimes Act are consistent with the rights and freedoms in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.
On Radio New Zealand National on June 5, the Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, said the Government is not going to take the lead on any move to change the law. She said that if
the matter came up in Parliament, National Party MPs would have a conscience vote, and she thought that would be likely for any party in Parliament.