Lecretia’s Fight Lives On
The case brought by terminally ill New Zealand lawyer Lecretia Seales has become part of the larger worldwide right-to-die debate. A feature story in the June 27, 2015, edition of The Economist referenced Ms. Seales’s story in its thoroughgoing investigation into how the campaign to let doctors help the suffering and terminally ill to die is gathering momentum.
The magazine commissioned an Ipsos MORI poll of people across 15 countries on whether they believed doctors should be allowed to prescribe lethal medication to patients, and if so, under what circumstances. Barring Poland and Russia, majorities in the remaining 13 countries said the practice should be legalized for terminally ill adults.
The Economist story debunked some longstanding myths surrounding the debate, such as the issue potentially weakening the public confidence in the medical profession; the fear that if euthanasia is legal, patients may feel pressure to ask for it; or that assisted dying will lead to a downgrade in care. Surveys show that the public trusts doctors as much in countries with legal assisted dying as they are in those where it is not and that “there is no slippery slope towards widespread euthanasia.”
In an accompanying editorial, The Economist pulled no punches in its support. “Doctors should be allowed to help the suffering and terminally ill to die when they choose,” the editors wrote, arguing that euthanasia is really an issue about “liberty,” “autonomy,” and “human dignity.”
Ms. Seales died of brain cancer in June at age 42 just hours after New Zealand’s High Court refused her bid to allow doctor-assisted euthanasia, ruling that only the country’s parliament could change the law. Ms. Seales had an inoperable brain tumor at the time of her death and was paralyzed and unable to speak.
“Seales did not get the choice she sought,” Rebecca Macfie wrote in an obituary for the New Zealand Listener. “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.”
Ms. Seales’s family and husband, Matt Vickers, continues her important work around this sensitive yet rigorous debate and the opportunity it holds for New Zealand to continue to lead as a progressive culture.
Image source: Lucretia’s Choice