Right-to-die: real life versus theory

NZ Herald 13 June 2015
Tributes to Lecretia Seales praised her courage in making the end of her life a test case for euthanasia. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who employed her at the Law Commission, said: “Her idea to turn her experience into a law reform project was typical of her. What a brilliant idea. She always thinks of others first. She never complains. I salute her.”

Her husband, Matt Vickers, expressed similar sentiments after her death. He called on Parliament to “have the courage to debate this issue, to show a quantum of the courage my wife has shown these past months”.

So it is fair, I think, to draw what lessons are available from what he has told us of her death. Clearly it was not as drawn-out and dreadful as her lawyers had feared in the High Court at Wellington a week earlier.

Her husband said, “In the end, Lecretia was fortunate that her death happened quickly, and that she was cared for by some very fine health professionals from hospice and DHB. Others are not so lucky”.

The Seales case illustrates one of the practical difficulties with euthanasia: those who are well enough to ask for it don’t want it until their illness is so well advanced that doctors cannot be sure the patient is in the right mental state to make such a fateful decision. Catch 22.

There are other practical problems, including some crucial definitions of terminal illness and whether doctor-assisted suicide should be available for anything a sufferer found unbearable.

These may be the main reasons Parliament has refused to legalise euthanasia. But the practical pitfalls are merely symptomatic of the subject’s sickening disregard for the honour and dignity of living to the last possible gasp.
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