Right-to-die campaigner Lecretia Seales deteriorates

Terminally ill Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who has taken a case to the High Court in Wellington over wanting the ...
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Terminally ill Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who has taken a case to the High Court in Wellington over wanting the option to have a medically-aided death, was served a meal at home by chef Sam Pope last month.

A terminally-ill Wellington lawyer fighting to have the option of having her doctor help her to die, might not live to hear the verdict.

Lecretia Seales' health has deteriorated and she is now in a hospital bed in her home, writes husband Matt Vickers on Seales' blog.

Seales' case to clarify the law in a way that would enable her general practitioner to help her to die peacefully, if she chose, finished in the High Court at Wellington on Wednesday.

Lecretia Seales' cat, Ferdinand, keeps her company as she lays on hospital bed in her home.

Lecretia Seales' cat, Ferdinand, keeps her company as she lays on hospital bed in her home.

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Seales does not want to be dependent on the care of others in her final days, to suffer intolerably or be sedated to the extent that she is not conscious of her loved ones.

But her wish might not be granted before she dies.

" 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 of this without complaint," Vickers writes.

He explained they had to organise to get a hospital bed into their home, because t he morning routine of getting out of bed had become a struggle.

"Despite being awake and lucid, her paralysis had taken a firm grip on her whole body, and she had become as rigid as a plank, unable to bend at the waist.

"Her brother and I worked to lift her together, and almost had to force her to bend so that she could get into a seated position."

Lawyer Andrew Butler represented Seales in the High Court in Wellington.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Lawyer Andrew Butler represented Seales in the High Court in Wellington.

Seales is now settled in a hospital bed in their living room.

"She is laying in her bed with a quilt sewn for her by a friend who worked with her at the Law Commission. Our cat, Ferdinand, has been sharing her bed with her, laying in her lap, or at the end of the bed," Vickers writes.

Every so often a tremor comes, he writes.

"Her whole body shakes and vibrates. The pressure of the tumour on her brain stem is causing her brain to reconfigure, to shift against itself like restless earth, causing her body to tremble, the frame of the bed shaking and rattling. And then it subsides, and she rests.

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" Lecretia's choice is imminent, and we don't know yet if she will get to make it."

The 42-year-old has an untreatable brain tumour and is thought to be just weeks from death.

"She doesn't know what is yet to come, and what she will have to endure, and that must be terrifying," Vickers writes.

"I know that having the ability to make a choice about how her life ends would give her more strength to face it ... I don't know what she will ultimately choose, or even whether she will get to. But for Lecretia , it was always having the choice that mattered, not the choice itself.

"We are hoping for a judgement that acknowledges and respects Lecretia's free will and autonomy over her own life; the ability to decide how she lives it and how it ends. That is all she wants."

Justice David Collins reserved his decision on Wednesday and said he would work through Queen's Birthday weekend to quickly deliver a result.

University of Otago law faculty dean professor Mark Henaghan believed Collins would make a judgment whether she was around to see it, or not.

"I don't think he will abandon the decision," he said.

"If she does die before that though, I think he'd still write the judgment because, while it is about Lecretia, it's also about the whole issue in general. It's about anyone in her situation who gets to a point where they want someone to assist them to pass away."

While Collins had a big decision to make, he knew it had to be made promptly, Henaghan said

"The case has been made, so a judgment has to be written. It's a very important decision."

 - Stuff

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