Lecretia Seales’ death comes amidst growing momentum for euthanasia

Dutch euthanasia expert Rob Jonquiere hopes the death of New Zealander Lecretia Seales, an advocate who has died from brain cancer, will bring about a law change.

Seales, 42, died from natural causes, just hours after New Zealand’s High Court refused her bid to allow doctor-assisted euthanasia. Seales had an inoperable brain tumour and at the time of her death she was paralysed and unable to speak.

New Zealand’s High Court ruled that only the country’s parliament could pass legislation to change the law.

Jonquiere, who is in Australia campaigning for voluntary euthanasia, had exchanged emails with Seales, a Wellington lawyer. He said many countries were looking towards the Dutch model, where euthanasia has been available for decades.

“The change towards our model … you see something happening, I see something happening like this in New Zealand,” Jonquiere said.

In rejecting Seales’ request to allow doctor-assisted euthanasia, Justice David Collins expressed his deepest condolences to her family.

“Only parliament can change the law to reflect Ms Seales’ wishes … the courts cannot trespass on the role of parliament,” Collins said.

Her family said in a statement that the case had generated huge public interest, and called on parliament to comprehensively examine the issue. “It is clear beyond doubt that people want to debate this issue regardless of their personal position,” the statement said.

Personal friend of Seales, Catherine Marks says in an opinion piece for the New Zealand Herald that the substantial public interest and debate surrounding the case demonstrates this is an issue people care deeply about.

“Seales has started an informed and rigorous debate,” Marks says. “It presents a great opportunity for New Zealand to continue its tradition of being a progressive and evolving society. We need politicians who are unafraid to have these discussions, regardless of where they ultimately land. We are a lot poorer as a community if the debate itself is effectively shut down.”

In an obituary for the Listener Rebecca Macfie writes: “Seales did not get the choice she sought. But from her momentous High Court action, she has bequeathed to New Zealand a wide body of evidence that does much to defeat the myths about assisted dying and provides a solid foundation for reasoned debate.

“In asking Justice David Collins to declare it lawful for her doctor to help her die, the 42-year-old lawyer faced formidable adversaries: the Crown, the palliative care sector, the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, Family First and others besides.”

Original article by Brigid Andersen, ABC Online, June 8, 2015.

Photo by Hagen Hopkins.

Tags: ABC  Catherine Marks  euthanasia  Justice David Collins  Lecretia Seales  New Zealand Herald  New Zealand Listener  Rob Jonquiere  

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