NZ Herald 6 June 2015
Few would have envied the decision Justice David Collins has had to make on whether New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act can sanction euthanasia. The subject is not one that anybody finds pleasant, including those, perhaps an increasing number, who say they believe it is at least preferable to a lingering, painful and possibly undignified death.
That was the view of Lecretia Seales, who applied to the High Court for the right to die with a doctor’s assistance if her terminal brain tumour became much worse.
Ms Seales, who died of her illness hours after receiving the decision on Thursday evening, had made it clear to the court last week that she was not then wishing to die.
She was seeking the right to do so at some future point if her life became unbearable. It is important that be noted because it illustrates one of the problems for voluntary euthanasia. If it is to be allowed, the decision must be made when the person is still capable of making it, to avoid any question they may be vulnerable to external pressure.
Yet the prospect of the decision to die being made by people who are not yet suffering unbearably, and may never be, makes it ethically more difficult for doctors to do what they ask, and more difficult for society to sanction such a decision in law.
The sanctity of life lies at the heart of public policy in a civilised society that considers it has no right to take a life even as retribution for taking a life.