Lecretia Seales lived with passion, determination and autonomy

Lecretia Seales in 2009, two years before the brain tumour was discovered.
Kevin Stent

Lecretia Seales in 2009, two years before the brain tumour was discovered.

Lecretia Seales has died, aged 42.

The Wellington lawyer rose to national notice in the final months of her life when she asked a judge to give her the option of having her doctor help her to die if life became intolerable.

While supporting protection of the vulnerable, Seales said it was a fundamental human right for someone in her position to be able to choose the way she would die.

"I really want to be able to say goodbye well," she said.

"I am the one who has been inflicted with this disease, no one else. It is my life that has been cut short. So who else but me should have the authority to decide if and when the disease and its effects are so intolerable that I would prefer to die?

"I am not saying that I will necessarily choose to exercise this right, and nor for one moment am I suggesting others in my position should be asked to make such a choice.

"I am simply saying that I, Lecretia Seales, a human being confronted with the inescapable reality of my death, and the prospect of great suffering – for me and those who love me – must have the right to determine when I have reached the end of the road. This right belongs to me and none other."

READ MORE: Euthanasia campaigner  Lecretia Seales dies of natural causes

Should Kiwis have the right to die with 'dignity'?

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In late May, as her body became rigid and hospital bed was moved to the lounge of her Wellington home, her husband Matt Vickers wrote that it was always about having the choice that mattered, not the choice itself.

Seales had first been diagnosed with a brain tumour in about March 2011.

Headaches and a minor traffic accident had led to eye checks, then more detailed investigation discovered a brain tumour.

She had surgery, radiotherapy, and drug-based treatment that slowed the tumour's growth but in March this year, with paralysis taking over the left side of her body and her sight failing, she launched the court action.

Her decline was faster than expected. She acknowledged the risk that she might not live long enough to see the court judgment but was said to believe in the ability of the law to give justice to the individual.

Fearing memory loss, intense pain, and perhaps a prolonged decline, the resolutely private woman and her husband Matt Vickers decided to "go public" in mainstream media, on a Facebook page and a blog chronicling her illness and the court case.

The first release about the legal action had been headed, " Lecretia's Choice".

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They hoped politicians would confront the issue but they did not have the luxury of time to wait for that to happen.

Seales had worked at prominent law firm Chen Palmer, and while working for the Law Commission was seconded to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The law commission is an independent Crown entity that reviews the law and makes recommendations to government. Seales was there for seven years until she took sick leave in March. On the day her resignation took effect last month she met with colleagues at her home for a final discussion about a project she had been working on.

Seales had been raised in Tauranga, the eldest of three children.

At a young age she decided to become a lawyer and followed through with determination, excelled in her studies and repaid her student loan in three and a half years.

Seales enjoyed dance, especially ballet and jazz ballet, and travelled to Argentina, birthplace of the tango.

She studied four languages and loved baking and cooking generally. Friends recounted the planning and making of "world famous" dinner parties, with a fabulous finale in her favourite course - dessert.

She met her husband Matt in what was described as the "time-honoured Wellington way - Courtenay Place".

The couple were not able to have children.

At the court hearing her lawyer said she wanted to end her life in the way she had lived it, living fully to the end in a composed, measured way, self sufficient and independent, positive and grateful for life.

She did not want pity from others, or self pity , to get in the way.

She wanted the choice of being able to say, "Enough is enough", and to die peacefully with her husband and family around her.

Seales said she did not lack courage. She accepted her illness but did not want to die in a way completely contrary to the way she had lived.

 - Stuff

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