WELLINGTON, NZ, May 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A terminally ill New Zealand lawyer, Lecretia Seales, has been granted the unprecedented opportunity to plead in the High Court for the right to assisted suicide.
Seales, who is a public law specialist, has an inoperable brain tumor which is no longer responding to chemotherapy. She is currently undergoing palliative care.
The 41-year-old wants the court to issue a judgment that will protect her doctor from prosecution if the medic assists in her suicide.
That would violate the Crimes Act of 1961, which declares aiding or abetting suicide an offense.
Lecretia argues that the Crimes Act should be interpreted alongside section 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which states that “everyone has the right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment.”
She believes that the current law “breaches her fundamental human rights to liberty and personal autonomy.”
To bolster her case, Seales is drawing on the recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling on physician assisted suicide. That ruling stated that “the prohibition [on physician-assisted suicide] denies people in this situation the right to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care.”
The hearing will take place on May 25 in the Wellington High Court.
Three groups, both for and against euthanasia, have been given the opportunity to participate.
The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, the Human Rights Commission, and the Care Alliance (the last is an anti-euthanasia group) will all have the opportunity to submit evidence.
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Those opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide exhibit growing concern that this case will set dangerous precedents for the future.
The NZ Herald reports that the lawyer acting on behalf of the Care Alliance, Victoria Casey, believes that changes to the Crimes Act would have an impact on “the whole of society.” She went on to say that “there is harm to the vulnerable in society by lifting the ban…These are not lightweight matters.”
The significance of the case is not lost on Justice Collins, the man who will have to make the final decision. “The declarations Ms. Seales seeks are cast very precisely and are not intended to have a wide application,” he said. “Nevertheless, the issue of whether or not a person in Ms. Seales’ circumstances can be assisted to end her life, or have her health professional deliberately hasten her death raises significant legal and ethical issues that are of intense public importance.”
While this is the first time the law has been challenged in court in this manner, there have been several attempts in New Zealand to pass legislation that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. The latest attempt was the End of Life Choice Bill, sponsored by Maryan Street, a Labour MP. That Bill was removed from the ballot in 2013, as it was feared the issue would be too contentious to debate in an election year.
The current Labour leader, Andrew Little, does not favor introducing the Bill at this time and has requested that it is not returned to the ballot.
All attention now turns to what will be a very important case in the fight to keep New Zealand free of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.