Laws not surprised by ruling on Seales' dying wish

Michael Laws, who championed the original Death with Dignity Bill 20 years ago, is unsurprised by the High Court's ...
Tracey Grant

Michael Laws, who championed the original Death with Dignity Bill 20 years ago, is unsurprised by the High Court's decision on Lecretia Seales' application.

Though Lecretia Seales' dying wish was not granted by the High Court, she did not die in vain, says euthanasia advocate Michael Laws.

Seales died naturally surrounded by her family early on Friday morning after suffering from a brain tumour. She had asked the High Court at Wellington to clarify whether a doctor would be committing a crime if they assisted her suicide at a time of her choosing.

She feared being dependent on the care of others in her final days, suffering intolerably or being sedated to the extent she was not conscious of her loved ones.

The judgment from the High Court at Wellington said Seales' doctor would have been at risk of prosecution for either murder or manslaughter if they administered a fatal drug to her, intending to kill her.

Laws, who introduced the Death With Dignity Bill unsuccessfully 20 years ago, said he was unsurprised by the verdict but it highlighted the issue again, so Seales' death would not be in vain.

"The High Courts don't like going where angels fear to tread," he said. 

There was a fundamental clash of law between the provisions of the Crimes Act and the Bill of Rights, Laws said.

"Parliament has clearly deserted the New Zealand public when public opinion is overwhelmingly in support (of change)."

He predicts the baby-boomer generation, of which he is a member, will push the frontiers of social practices in this area, as it has done in regard to other issues.

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Voice for Life spokeswoman Carmel Armstrong said she had compassion for Seales and her family but was pleased with the judge's conclusion. It was not a good idea to change laws based on someone else's fears, she said. 

"If she had been allowed to die, what day would she have chosen? Do you wait until tomorrow to see how you feel? What she was fearful of didn't eventuate." 

Armstrong hopes the law will not change and wants more education on how rare it is for people to die in grinding pain.

She thinks any right to die bill which succeeded would put more people at risk.

"The world is not perfect and people get tired of waiting for people to die. We are humans and should not put people down."

 - Stuff

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