Lecretia Seales case: She wants to change the law, not clarify it, says Crown

Lecretia Seales, first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011 and now expected to have only weeks to live.
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Lecretia Seales, first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011 and now expected to have only weeks to live.

Terminally ill lawyer Lecretia Seales wants to change the law, not clarify it, the solicitor-general has told the court hearing her assisted-dying case.

Seales, 42, is thought to be just weeks from death as a result of a brain tumour.

Her general practitioner, whose name is suppressed, says she will help Seales die if it can be done legally, which has led to the case being heard in the High Court at Wellington this week.

Seales, who says she wants the law clarified, was in court for part of Monday's sitting, but did not attend on Tuesday.

She says her life will be longer if she knows she can get help to die, should her suffering become intolerable. She faces the alternatives of palliative care, or to take her own life while she is still able to do so without help.

Justice David Collins was told that, because of her rapid deterioration, she was urgently considering suicide –  a secret and isolated death to avoid anyone being criminally liable for helping her. 

Seales said in written evidence to the court that she wanted to be able to say goodbye well.

The defendant in her case is the attorney-general. His lawyer, Solicitor-General Michael Heron, QC, said Seales wanted to change the law, not clarify it, and only Parliament could change it.

It was not possible to read the Crimes Act – which sets out the law about suicide and blameworthy killings – in the way Seales wanted, Heron said.

The law applied to everyone, to recognise the sanctity of life and to protect the vulnerable, he said. The court was being asked to sanction a death without knowing what the doctor was going to do, what medication would be used, or how.

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Seales said she was asking for aid in dying: either  facilitated aid, if she was given the means to kill herself, or administered aid if a doctor took action to bring about the death. Heron said they should be called suicide and euthanasia.

He said that, based on numbers from Oregon, in the United States, where help to die was available in some circumstances, there might be two or three people a week asking for assisted suicide or euthanasia in New Zealand.

Seales could say it was all about her personal circumstances, but it was impossible to confine it in that way, Heron said.

The hearing his due to end on Wednesday.

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 - Stuff

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