SA right-to-die case may help NZ woman
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Cape Town - A New Zealand lawyer with terminal brain cancer wants a doctor to help her die, and reportedly intends to use the recent South African assisted suicide ruling to boost her court case.
On Saturday New Zealand-born Professor Sean Davison, who founded the organisation Dignity SA, which backed the local assisted suicide case and which now backs the New Zealand case, told Weekend Argus it was apparent the South African ruling was having an international impact.
“This is having a ripple effect around the world. It’s all gaining momentum.”
Davison said he was trying to get in touch with brain cancer patient Lecretia Seales, 42, whose legal team filed papers in the High Court of New Zealand about two months ago arguing that her doctor should not be prosecuted for helping her die with her consent.
The case mirrors the South African one, which saw terminally ill Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, a retired Cape Town advocate, turning to the courts in his bid to die with the help of a doctor.
On April 30, the Pretoria High Court ruled that Stransham-Ford, who had prostate cancer and who died naturally just before the judgment was delivered, could have a doctor help him end his life without fear of prosecution.
Seales’s case is expected to resume on May 25 and the New Zealand Herald reported that her lawyer, Dr Andrew Butler, said he would rely on the South African case, as well as a similar Canadian Supreme Court judgment delivered in February, as precedents.
The New Zealand Herald reported that 12 years ago a bill to allow euthanasia for the terminally ill was lost by two votes, and quoted Davison saying he was surprised New Zealand had made no progress on the matter since then.
Davison was quoted saying: “It’s a basic human right, at the core of our humanity… This is what New Zealand should be leading the world on.”
Davison served five months’ house arrest in New Zealand in 2011 for helping his mother, Dr Pat Davison, die.
On Saturday he told Weekend Argus that while the law in South Africa involving medically assisted suicide had not changed, Stransham-Ford’s case and the debate around it was propelling the cause.
“South Africa’s leading the world here.”
Davison said he was following Seales’s case and wanted to offer her his support.
On the day of the Pretoria court ruling in Stransham-Ford’s favour, a link to an article on it was posted on Seales’s Facebook page, Lecretia’s Choice.
According to Seales’s website, she was diagnosed with brain cancer four years ago. She underwent surgery to reduce the tumour, but it could not be completely removed, and until last year she was receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In January this year her health declined and she had no other medical alternatives.
“She began to review her end-of-life alternatives. She discovered that if she is very lucky, she might die quickly, but that the more likely outcome was that she would have to undergo a drawn out, undignified death, after losing her mental faculties and all quality of life.
“Her other alternative is a violent, lonely and traumatic suicide at her own hand, which would rob her of a few precious weeks or months of life that would be worth living,” it said.
Seales’s website said she wanted the choice to have a physician assist her suicide or death.