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Michelle Kaufman

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New Zealand judge: Parliament must decide on euthanasia

Michelle Kaufman

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, June 8, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)  Justice David Collins has found that euthanasia and assisted suicide are matters for the New Zealand Parliament to decide after he heard the case of terminally ill woman, Lecretia Seales.

Seales, a lawyer who was suffering from a terminal brain tumor, asked the Wellington High Court for a declaration that her doctor, who has name suppression, would not be charged with murder or manslaughter by assisting in her death.  She also wanted the judge to rule that the actions of the doctor would not be assisted suicide, but rather “facilitated aid in dying” and a fundamental human right.

Lecretia’s condition deteriorated rapidly during the week of the hearing, and she passed away peacefully in her home of natural causes at 12:35 a.m. Friday morning. 

One of Lecretia's fears was to be in unbearable pain and it was one of the reasons used in her case to justify the need for assisted suicide.  On May 30, her husband Matt Vicker's wrote:

Lecretia is not well. Her eyes are closed most of the time. She is having trouble swallowing. She is talking less and less. But she is facing all of this without complaint. She says she has no pain, and she has not taken any painkillers.

Due to the severity of her illness, Justice Collins decided earlier in the week to share with Lecretia’s family the part of his judgment which directly related to her.  The full decision was released to the public Friday afternoon.

Justice Collins wrote:

I cannot declare that Ms Seales’ doctor would be acting lawfully if she administered a fatal drug to Ms Seales within the terms sought.  Nor can I declare that it would be lawful for Ms Seales’ doctor to provide her with a fatal drug knowing that Ms Seales intended to use that drug to end her own life and did so.

He went on to say that “the changes to the law sought by Ms Seales can only be made by Parliament” and that he would “be trespassing on the role of Parliament and departing from the constitutional role of Judges in New Zealand” if he were to do what Ms Seales was requesting.

The decision has been welcomed by those opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, although all groups have stressed that their thoughts are with Lecretia’s friends and family at this time.

The media, which has used Lecretia’s story to garner more public support for euthanasia and assisted suicide, has jumped on Justice Collin’s decision, pushing for the conversation to accelerate.

A number of politicians have stepped forward willing to get the debate started. 

Both Deputy Labour Leader, Annette King, and National MP Judith Collins told Paul Henry on TV3 that they would be happy for it to go to a select committee inquiry.

Judith Collins mentioned that “one of the big problems has always been we’d hate to see people feeling pushed into agreeing to euthanasia, and that I think, has always been the big issue for us.”  The pair hoped that those fears would be alleviated by opening the discussion up to the public through a select committee inquiry.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, also known as End of Life Choice, is currently putting together a petition to present to Parliament.  Iain Lees-Galloway, who was willing to re-submit the contentious End of Life Bill, is backing this plan.

David Seymour, the leader of ACT, has stated that he is drafting a Private Member’s Bill around euthanasia.

Further attempts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide will not be pushed through without strong opposition from a large variety of groups.

The Care Alliance, which was able to give evidence in the hearing and is made up of a variety of organizations, has vowed to be a strong voice against any future attempts. 

Speaking on the Care Alliance’s behalf, Matthew Jensen related their passion: “If and when such a proposal comes forward … we will be there to test and challenge the arguments made and we’ll be there to present our evidence and analysis and arguments against it.”

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