Lecretia Seales: New Zealander of the Year

Media Release
Lecretia’s Choice
Saturday, 19 December 2015
For Immediate Release

The New Zealand Herald has selected Lecretia Seales as New Zealander of the Year for 2015. For 24 years, the NZ Herald has annually selected an individual whom it believes has made a difference to the lives of New Zealanders and a positive contribution to the country. Previous winners have included Sir Peter Blake, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Mary Quin and Austin Hemmings.

Ms Seales took a case to the High Court of New Zealand in May of this year in an attempt to clarify the existing law on assisted dying, and to seek a ruling that her doctor would not be prosecuted if they assisted her to die. Ms Seales did not get the ruling she sought, and she passed away hours before the ruling was shared with the public. Her decision, however, to mount this legal challenge in the very final stages of her life garnered huge public support and compelled the New Zealand parliament to look at the issue of assisted dying for the first time in twelve years.

The Health Select Committee is currently investigating attitudes towards assisted dying in New Zealand and is continuing to take submissions from the public until 1 February 2016.

Ms Seales’ widower, Matt Vickers, says: “To ensure Lecretia’s efforts were not in vain, it is important that New Zealanders who are in support of assisted dying make submissions to the Select Committee to express their views. I am sure many politicians would like to sweep this issue under the carpet if they could, and a lack of submissions will make it easier for them to do that. It would be disappointing if—after all of Lecretia’s work, and Justice Collins’ statement that it is up to parliament to change the law—this issue were to lose momentum now. Those New Zealanders who are terminally ill would benefit greatly from a change in the law, just as terminally ill patients have benefitted in jurisdictions where assisted dying is permitted.”

Mr Vickers has created a web page with instructions on how the public can make a submission to the Health Select Committee at http://lecretia.org/make-a-submission. The evidence from Lecretia’s case is available at http://lecretia.org/seales-v-attorney-general.

Regarding Lecretia being named New Zealander of the Year, Mr Vickers says: “This is not an honour that Lecretia would have sought for herself, and it is one that she would have been surprised to receive, especially given the high calibre of the other nominees, some of whom have devoted their entire lives to their work or calling, or are at the pinnacle of their sporting careers. Lecretia was a humble person who saw what she did as nothing more than doing the right thing, and as a way to start an important public discussion after our politicians had continually failed to do so. As a family we are incredibly proud of Lecretia and are touched that she has received this tribute from the New Zealand Herald. We miss Lecretia terribly and it is a comfort for us to know that her contribution has not been forgotten.”

Mr Vickers is currently writing Lecretia’s story, which will be published by Text Publishing next year. Text is one of Australasia’s most influential independent publishing companies. Text has published work by Nobel prizewinner J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Lionel Shriver, John Clarke, Lloyd Jones and US President Barack Obama, among many others. Michael Heyward, publisher at Text said: “We are proud to be publishing Lecretia’s story, which addresses a highly topical and controversial issue from a personal perspective, and we hope Matt’s book will find an international audience.”

Further publication details will be available in the new year.

Ends

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