The Person Who Really Loves Me Will Be the One Who Helps Me Die: A Critique of Seales v Attorney-General
36 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2016
Date Written: 2015
Euthanasia is a deeply personal and multifaceted topic that has become increasingly relevant in contemporary society. New Zealand’s stance on the practice of assisted dying was unsuccessfully challenged in Seales v Attorney-General. This paper critically evaluates the foundations of that decision, applying the R v Hansen majority test for interpreting legislation that appears inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The right to life bears a broad meaning capable of including a right to die; furthermore the rights methodology adopted is out of step with New Zealand case law and commentary. The purpose of criminalising assisted suicide is attainable through regulating euthanasia, and an alternative reading was, at a stretch, tenable. This paper argues that the criminalisation of assisted suicide is inconsistent with the right to life, so a declaration of inconsistency was an appropriate remedy, if not a strained reading of the Crimes Act 1961 excluding euthanasia from the scope of suicide. Although lacking in legal significance, the decision’s enduring importance lies in provoking discussion and potential reform. Future developments in this area will be watched with interest; Seales is undoubtedly not the end of the story but rather the beginning of a wider social conversation.
Keywords: New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Seales v Attorney-General, euthanasia, right to life, suicide.
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation