26 Jun 2015

'Eyes of world' on euthanasia hearing

11:16 am on 26 June 2015

The husband of the woman who took her battle for the right to die on her own terms to court is calling for the inquiry into assisted dying to be thorough and rational.

Wellington woman Lecretia Seales died three weeks ago, only hours after learning her High Court fight had failed.

 Lecretia Seales' husband Matt Vickers after her death and the judge's decision

Lecretia Seales' husband Matt Vickers speaking after his wife's death and the High Court decision Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

The former lawyer had sought clarification on whether it would be an offence under the Crimes Act for her doctor to help her die, and whether a ban on assisted dying contravened her human rights.

Lucretia Seales

Lecretia Seales Photo: FACEBOOK

Parliament's Health Select Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into whether or not the law should be changed to allow voluntary euthanasia.

Ms Seales' husband, Matt Vickers, told Nine to Noon the committee should view the inquiry as a test case for people in similar circumstances to that of his late wife.

It should look at whether people in a situation like Lecretia's were justified in requesting assistance to die and what legislation could be put in place to support that decision or choice.

Mr Vickers said the committee would need to get its terms of reference, and the definition of the problem, right.

"There are a lot of different views around what the law should be. But I think that they should take a subset of people and ... say, for people that are terminally ill, that are inevitably going to deal with their mortality within a short period of time, can we allow assistance to die in those specific circumstances.

"I think if it goes broader than that, then it introduces a whole bunch of other questions."

If the law was changed, it must be done carefully, because concerns people had were legitimate.

"But I think with the right safeguards and the right controls it can be done in a safe way," he said.

Mr Vickers said the select committee should take an evidence-based approach; look at a range of information from overseas and the evidence in Ms Seales case.

"The other thing that they can do is ... appoint a panel of experts to advise them. People perhaps in palliative care, people that have grappled with the issues and do understand them, so that they can advise the committee," said Mr Vickers.

"The eyes of the world are really going to be on the select committee, and if they don't conduct this inquiry in an intelligent way they're just going to look like chumps."

Mr Vickers and former Labour MP Maryan Street - who in 2013 removed her End of Life Choice Bill from the private member's ballot - this week presented Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway with a petition signed by 8975 people calling for Parliament to consider the issue. Mr Vickers said he believed any new bill should be narrower in scope.