Monday 24 October 2016

New Zealand courts refuses bid by brain cancer patient to allow assisted suicide

Published 05/06/2015 | 07:33

Judge's gavel.
Judge's gavel.

New Zealand's High Court refused a bid by a brain cancer patient to allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients to end their lives just hours after the applicant died.

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Lawyer Lecretia Seales, 42, had asked the court to declare that she had a right to end her own life and that her doctor should not be prosecuted for helping her.

"The complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales's proceedings can only be addressed by parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act," Judge David Collins said in a written judgement.

Seales died of natural causes about 15 hours before the decision was formally released, but a summary of the decision had been given to her the previous day.

She had claimed the denial of her right to an assisted death breached her fundamental civil and legal rights.

"The judgment has starkly highlighted that the status quo is not ideal; that people are at risk of intolerable suffering and are at risk of ending their lives earlier than they would otherwise," Seales's husband, Matt Vickers, said in a statement.

New Zealand's top state lawyer, the Solicitor General, argued that only lawmakers had the right to make and change law.

Assisting a person to commit suicide is a crime in New Zealand, which can carry a life jail term depending on the circumstances.

Over the past decade, several attempts to change the law have been rejected by parliament, with lawmakers voting according to their individual consciences.

"Although Ms Seales has not obtained the outcomes she sought, she has selflessly provided a forum to clarify important aspects of New Zealand law," Collins said.

The California Senate approved a physician-assisted suicide bill on Thursday that would allow some terminally ill patients to obtain medication to end their lives, even as opponents criticized the bill as dangerous.


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