Lifting 'blanket' euthanasia ban might see 'two, maybe three a week', court told

The Solicitor-General's legal team is warning the High Court in Wellington that a judgement allowing a New Zealand woman to effectively take her own life will soon result in a multitude of similar cases in our courts.

Lecretia Seales appeared at the high court in Wellington today to listen to lawyers argue for her right to choose when she dies. Source: 1 NEWS

Lecretia Seales, a 42-year-old policy adviser at the Law Commission, has taken an appeal to the High Court in Wellington to change an interpretation of the Crimes Act, which says it is illegal to aid or abet a person's suicide but does not define suicide, to allow doctors to help patients who are dying to die sooner.

Currently, the bill is read as outright banning doctors from assisting suicide.

On the third and final day of the court hearing today, Professor Paul Rishworth QCs told Justice David Collins that if society moved away from a blanket ban on assisted suicide, there would be vulnerable people who "avail themselves" for this option.

"Their motivation is in fact to relieve their burden upon others, or reduce the financial impact to the cost of their care for an inheritance for a granddaughter or grandson," Professor Rishworth said.

Professor Rishworth said if the "blanket ban" was lifted, New Zealand could follow states like Oregon where "the numbers you're looking at might be maybe two, maybe three a week and that has to be significant".

He said that was one reason why the blanket ban must be maintained.

Justice Collins has been hearing arguments for and against Ms Seales' quest to get a judgement, which will give her doctor immunity from prosecution if she administers a fatal dose of drugs.

It's expected the landmark case will wrap up today.

The lawyer was in court on the first day of the hearing, but has not appeared since - she has been told she has months, if not weeks, to live.