The Herald reports:
A terminally ill woman is mounting a legal challenge seeking the right for a doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution.
Lecretia Seales, 41, is dying from brain cancer and believes it’s a “fundamental human right” to be able to choose to end her life with medical assistance, if she wants to, before her suffering becomes intolerable.
In a legal first in New Zealand, the senior legal and policy adviser at the Law Commission has filed a statement of claim in the High Court seeking a ruling to determine whether her GP could lawfully administer a lethal dose of drugs.
Assisting suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison but Ms Seales’ case relies on the provisions in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act which protect the rights to not be deprived of life or subjected to cruel treatment.
A fascinating and novel case. It is a pity she has to go to court to get the right to a humane death, but if she succeeds she may galvanise law reform.
Diagnosed in 2011 with an aggressive brain tumour, Ms Seales has suffered gradual paralysis, which has robbed her of the ability to move her hand, arm, leg and eyesight on the left side of her body.
She’s not afraid of death, but of losing her remaining physical and mental abilities.
One can only have the greatest sympathy for her, and her family.
Her challenge closely mirrors a recent Carter v Canada case where the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a criminal ban on medically assisted deaths and gave politicians 12 months to rework the legislation.
The case was originally brought on behalf of two women with degenerative diseases, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor. The unanimous 9-0 decision by the judges found the criminal charge of assisting suicide – which like New Zealand had a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison – infringed on the rights protected in the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights.
A key part of the judgment was the finding that the ban deprived some patients of the right to life.
“It has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable,” wrote the court.
This is beyond doubt the case. Martin Hames was an example of this in NZ. Our current law forces people to kill themselves earlier.