Right to die is right to kill

Justice David Collins has ruled it is up to parliament to amend the Crimes Act to give doctors the right to help patients die without prosecution.

Lecretia Seales was unsuccessful in seeking a landmark High Court ruling to allow her doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution.

Justice David Collins released his judgment at 3pm which rejected her bid and said only Parliament can give her what she wanted. . .

Ms Seales died of natural causes at 12.35am this morning, just hours after her family and lawyers received the ruling.

The health of the 42-year-old Wellington lawyer with terminal brain cancer had deteriorated rapidly in the days since her court case last week where she was seeking a declaration that a doctor would not risk prosecution if they were to help her die.

Her family said they were “very disappointed with Justice Collin’s judgment. He found in our favour in relation to the evidence before him, but his interpretation of the purpose of the law meant he could not find aid in dying was available to Lecretia or inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.”

They added: “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. Justice Collins was clear that it is for Parliament to address these issues. . .

The grief Lucretia’s family and friends will be dealing with will be compounded by their disappointment that the case which occupied so much of her final weeks was unsuccessful.

They might choose to honour her memory by campaigning for a law change.

None of us would choose to suffer nor to watch anyone we love suffer.

That suffering might not just be intense physical pain, it could be the loss of dignity which physical and/or mental deterioration can lead to.

But euthanasia is not just about people’s control over their own lives and deaths.

As I wrote on this issue six years ago:

. . . There might be a grey area now about pain relief which gets to the level where it could be fatal but there is a huge gulf between alleviating pain and deliberately killing someone.

If we ever consider our own mortality most of us would choose to die without pain and with all our faculties intact.

Life and death aren’t always that tidy and palliative care isn’t always optimal.

That is a very strong argument for better palliative care, not an argument for euthanasia. . .

Those arguing for euthanasia talk about the right to die.

Let us not forget that it would give doctors the right to kill.

UPDATE:

The judgement is here.

The family’s response to the judgement is here.

15 Responses to Right to die is right to kill

  1. JC says:

    I’m pleased with the ruling and wonder why it isn’t self evident that this is an ethical question best addressed by the country and not a law person.

    JC

  2. Flaming conservatives Ele. And Christian?

    Euthanasia is voluntary, those who don’t want it, should have no say – and certainly no right to deny the right of those reasoned amongst us who demand the choice to die with dignity. There are many ‘compassionate’ doctors who are happy to provide the service.

    There is no more basic right that to own your body and health outcomes: where that right does not exist, nor does the free society.

    #Furious

  3. homepaddock says:

    “There is no more basic right that to own your body and health outcomes: where that right does not exist, nor does the free society. ” That is suicide. Euthanansia isn’t just about the right to end your own life, it’s giving doctors the right to end it.

  4. Brown says:

    Its quite a sensible ruling really (inevitable perhaps) and while it will disappoint those who have a strong opinion (Hi Mark) it will, at least, pressure politicians to engage in some serious debate which may lead to a legislative change. I’m not averse at all to suicide but am a great “do it your-selfer” without permits. In respect of suicide I was a failure and am grateful because the darkness didn’t last for ever and a rational mind (or as close as I get) returned. Belgium would have done me in of course.

    I have a fear that Mark’s suggestions, which seem well reasoned, will not be the basis of what we get and, as is usual, the govt will stuff it up and we will regret it.

    I’m not interested in a doctor doing it – they should be conflicted, so we need a new breed of people, trained by IRD perhaps, to do what is requested.

    The Christian aspect is a red herring and I’m sick of Mark dragging it up. Parliament doesn’t give a stuff about the Christian perspective and will flip the religious (except the cool ones like anything eastern mystic and Islam) the bird without a second thought.

    Its going to happen here and I suspect it will be more Belgium than Oregon – we seem closer to Europe than the US in culture. Its going to an interesting debate.

  5. Andrei says:

    This is a matter we need to keep lawyers and politicians out of.

    We are not animals to be “put to sleep”.

    In reality this is a non issue because patients, families and doctors make decisions every day which may hasten the end and nobody cares.

    Every single case of this coming before the courts in living memory has been the result of some activist wanting to make this an issue.

    But it will happen, because lawyers are drawn to new laws which will provide opportunities to line their pockets while politicians are drawn to new laws that will allow them to posture and “progressives” are drawn to any abomination that degrade humanity like flies are drawn to shit.

  6. macdoctor01 says:

    It’s the unintended consequences of euthanasia that always seem to be left out of the debate. The Belgium and Danish experience shows a number of them. Doctors who cease to be interested in palliative care. Poor care of the elderly at the end of their lives. Families that manipulate the vulnerable into killing themselves with phrases like “You don’t want to be a burden, do you?”, “we don’t want you to suffer” and “you don’t want your grandchildren to see you suffering, do you?”

    I am a doctor. I am trained to alleviate suffering and preserve life. Euthanasia is the antithesis of this. The last thing people need is to allow doctors to play God over life and death. It colours the thinking and spills over into all areas of medicine. An elderly patient in Belgium will be ASSUMED to be “not for resuscitation” when they are admitted to hospital. Antibiotics and fluids will be withdrawn without discussion with patient or family. Let’s not go there.

  7. Andrei says:

    It’s the unintended consequences of euthanasia that always seem to be left out of the debate.

    Perhaps that is because they might not be as “unintended” as it might seem – MacD.

    We could save a lot of money on the care of the elderly infirm if we could put them to sleep” – no?

    Superannuation liabilities costs would be reduced as well.

    It is all so depressing.

  8. TraceyS says:

    I am helping to look after a family member who is at the end of things and another whose quality of life is going downhill fast for intractable health reasons. It’s not easy at all, but there is still light because the circumstances are bringing everyone closer together. Every contact is an opportunity to express warmth and caring and love. Every contact has value even where there is pain. It will be this way right to the close because I will make sure of it. I dread even the thought of an alternative decision to be made other than natural processes. I feel this would fundamentally change how I express my love. Maybe this is selfish. But when my own time comes I think I’d rather die naturally loved to the end rather than as the result of a clinical decision.

    The argument that we put suffering animals out of their misery so we should extend this same compassion to our relatives is logical on the surface. But where it fails is that we don’t really love our animals in the same way we love (or should love) people; the fundamental difference being animals’ limitation to attachment-based love. Humans love differently, in a way that can’t be fully reciprocated by animals. So it is easier for a human to put an animal out of its misery. I would not hesitate to put down one of our loved cats but when it comes to my children I wouldn’t be able to do anything more than comfort and suffer with them. I could never conceive that to mean I have greater love and compassion for my cats than my kids.

  9. TraceyS says:

    “We could save a lot of money on the care of the elderly infirm if we could put them to sleep” – no?”

    Not just money but also time and inconvenience.

    Unfortunately it is human nature to think in such rational terms, so yes Andrei, I think your fear is well founded.

  10. JC says:

    Its a funny thing that in the abstract euthanasia or not seems an incredibly fraught decision but in reality is an incredibly easy decision to make.

    My wife and I have both buried our parents in circumstances where some form of moral decision had to be made about prolonging life. In two cases we made the easy decision to not prolong life artificially and in two we let them go full term.. if you will.. we let them die hard but with much love and support.

    I wont go into our reasoning because every case is different but it seemed to both of us an easy decision to make for each parent. But the thought of jumping in early to end life to spare pain was never ever considered.

    This morning I woke up to a world of pain and wondered how the hell I’d make it to the bush to do a job and then visit my wife who had just come out from 4 days in ICU (yeah, my pain and her condition are related). I cursed the ineffectiveness of the drug the docs had given me but decided to have another go with the pill. Thats when I noticed I was taking the wrong pill 🙂

    If I’d decided to blow my brains out just before that realisation it would have been down to not wearing my freakin’ glasses when reading labels.

    Thats what euthanasia is for me.. the *inability* to see the whole of a life and its death and how it brings new insights to the dying and the people around them.. the completion of a circle.

    But by God, I expect there to be the best of palliative care available to those who want it.

    JC

  11. Brown says:

    Tut tut JC, one must not mention the G word.

  12. Andrei says:

    Not long before the last election I predicted in a comment that this would end up on the Parliamentary agenda this term.

    Ele dismissed this concern but I was right

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/69148392/euthanasia-debate-back-on-the-political-agenda

    I don’t know how to search old comments but I will try and find the exchange to verify my claim.

    There is a reason why I want to remind you of this prediction because there is another even more scary prediction I have been making for the past two years which I will take up on an open thread

  13. homepaddock says:

    Andrei – I remember your comment and I think my response was that the government wouldn’t introduce legislation on this issue.

    They won’t but any MP could introduce a private members’ bill or there could be a select committee enquiry.

  14. Andrei says:

    I remember your comment and I think my response was that the government wouldn’t introduce legislation on this issue.

    Matthew 27:24

    When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

  15. homepaddock says:

    Washing your hands means not doing something when you have the power to do it. The government doesn’t have the power to stop a private members’ bill and I don’t think it can stop referral of an issue to a select committee.

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