Death of Lecretia Seales may inspire Parliament to take up issue of voluntary euthanasia

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway says Lecretia Seales' personal sacrifice could be honoured by Parliament now looking ...
DAVID UNWIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway says Lecretia Seales' personal sacrifice could be honoured by Parliament now looking seriously at the issue of euthanasia.

Both Labour and National MPs are talking about moving forward with action on assisted suicide following the death of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales.

The last piece of legislation addressing voluntary euthanasia was former Labour MP Maryan Street's End of Life Bill, which was withdrawn from the private member's bill ballot late in 2013 out of concern debate on the issue in election year could turn it into a political football.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway picked up the Bill, but was asked by Labour leader Andrew Little in 2014 not to return it to the ballot because it was not an issue the party should be focused on at that time. 

Lecretia Seales passed away from terminal brain cancer in June 2015.
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Lecretia Seales passed away from terminal brain cancer in June 2015.

Lees-Galloway on Friday said Seales' personal sacrifice could be honoured by Parliament now looking seriously at the issue of euthanasia.  

"I thought Lecretia was incredibly brave and the fact that she continued her fight literally right up to the end was amazing - her family should be incredibly proud of her, and I really hope that the effort that she put in makes a difference."

Lees-Galloway said he was interested to see what the Judge had decided in the case, but ultimately thought euthanasia was for Parliament to legislate on and clarify, rather than have the courts decide on a case-by-case basis. 

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"My condolences go out to her family and it seems as though she passed away peacefully and it's a shame that she didn't have the choice that she was looking for, but it's good to know that she at least received the Judge's decision before she passed away."

Labour deputy leader Annette King said it was a brave thing that Seales had done, but agreed it was not a decision for the courts to make. 

"This is a Parliamentary decision that has to be made, and maybe the time is right for the discussion," she said on the Paul Henry Show.

King thought it was time for a Parliamentary committee to examine the issue of euthanasia, rather than have another private Member's Bill put forward.

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The public needed to have a say in any inquiry, King said. 

Speaking on the Paul Henry Show, National MP Judith Collins said she thought Parliament would have to deal with the issue, but in the past private Members' Bills had been "a bit short and sharp", without considering all the factors.

Collins said MPs were the right people to start the conversation, but a wide range of people needed to be consulted and heard on the issue. 

Lees-Galloway said that going forward, there were options for the Government to put forward legislation, or for a Parliamentary select committee to try get cross-party consensus on the issue. 

"I think there's two courses of action that would appropriately progress the issue - one is for the Government to introduce legislation, but we haven't seen any sign from the Government that that is something they're interested in doing," Lees-Galloway said. 

"The other is taking it to a select committee and having a full inquiry at the select committee - possibly even having the select committee draft legislation and recommend that to the Government."

READ MORE:
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* California Senate approves physician-assisted suicide bill
Lecretia  Seales lived with passion, determination and autonomy
Geoffrey Palmer's tribute to Lecretia  Seales
* Lecretia Seales' death eerily similar to South African lawyer's
* Physicist Stephen Hawking says he would consider assisted suicide

That process would have the benefit of being non-partisan and giving all concerned the opportunity to express their view. 

The End of Life Choice Association was gathering signatures on a petition and were planning to present that to Parliament soon, and that would go to a select committee.

"I think the appropriate response from the select committee would be to open up a broad inquiry that properly explores the issue and looks at what the international evidence says."

" There's a lot of overseas jurisdictions that already have end-of-life choice, there's been different approaches to it overseas, and that would be an opportunity for the New Zealand Parliament to look at all of those overseas experiences with a completely open mind, listen to what New Zealanders have to say about it, look at the local evidence, and proceed appropriately after having done that."

Also on Friday, the California Senate approved a bill that would allow adults suffering from incurable terminal diseases to obtain medication to end their lives. The bill now moves to the state Assembly. If approved, California would join Oregon, Washington state, Montana and Vermont in allowing some form of physician-assisted suicide.

'ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS'

Euthanasia was "the last thing that you want to politicise," Lees-Galloway said.

"Ultimately this is about human rights. People on both sides of the debate would argue that it's a matter of human rights."

"So the less political we can make it, the better - and I think there's an opportunity for Parliament to take a very constructive approach to craft legislation that is enduring and fit for purpose and takes into account the experiences of all the other jurisdictions which have already implemented end-of-life choice."

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Related Links

Supporters hail Lecretia Seales

Lecretia Seales: A life lived with passion

Right-to-die decision to be released

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