Seales v Attorney-General

The court ruling is below. Her applications were not granted.

Some key quotes:

I cannot declare that Ms Seales’ doctor would be acting lawfully if she administered a fatal drug to Ms Seales within the terms sought.  Nor can I declare that it would be lawful for Ms Seales’ doctor to provide her with a fatal drug knowing that Ms Seales intended to use that drug to end her own life and did so.  Because Ms Seales’ health is rapidly deteriorating, I informed the parties of this aspect of my decision on 2 June 2015

It’s good the court communicated this aspect as early as possible, three days ago.

I have decided that Ms Seales’ right not to be deprived of life is engaged, but not breached in her case. I have also concluded that Ms Seales’ right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment is not engaged by her tragic circumstances. I have therefore concluded the relevant provisions of the Crimes Act are consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in the NZBORA.

Basically that is a loss on all grounds. It was always going to be a stretch for the court to rule assisted suicide was legal, but I thought there was a pretty good chance they would at least rule the current law is inconsistent with the NZBORA.

First, palliative care cannot necessarily provide relief from suffering in all cases. 

Palliative care helps greatly, but it doesn’t mean you don’t suffer both physically and mentally.

That research suggests that between three and eight per cent of suicides in New Zealand during the last century were by persons who were rational, competent, and suffering a terminal illness. 

That 3% to 8% may have lived longer if assistance was a legal option.

Although Ms Seales has not obtained the outcomes she sought, she has selflessly provided a forum to clarify important aspects of New Zealand law.  The complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales’ proceedings can only be addressed by Parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act. 

It is time for Parliament to act. And by act I mean a law change, not a select committee inquiry. A select committee inquiry is better than nothing, but should not be seen as a substitute for a bill.

Seales v Attorney-General

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