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'Fast and gentle end': Auckland woman's assisted death on beach

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 May 2024, 12:59pm
Tracy Hickman with her partner Paul during one of their many adventures.
Tracy Hickman with her partner Paul during one of their many adventures.

'Fast and gentle end': Auckland woman's assisted death on beach

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 24 May 2024, 12:59pm

A woman who decided to end her life by way of assisted dying on a New Zealand beach surrounded by her loved ones has been remembered as an “example and inspiration” for friends and colleagues. 

Tracy Hickman, 57, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 which she completed treatment for before it returned last year. 

After being given only two to three months to live, Auckland-based Hickman - who was originally from the UK - chose to die earlier this week by assisted dying on a secluded beach surrounded by family and friends. 

“In her words, it was to be a fast and gentle end to a life in which she’d always had her pedal to the floor,” her obituary read. 

Hickman’s obituary described her as an “adored colleague, a philanthropist, a respected business advisor, avid lover of chocolate, and so much more”. 

Tributes from colleagues, friends and family said she will be remembered for her kind heart and as an “inspiration”. 

“Thank you for being such an example and inspiration to us all on how to get the best out of life,” one said. 

“Thinking of others. That’s how I will remember you,” another wrote. 

“Tracy, you have made a positive lasting impact on me and so many others with your selflessness, intellect, and pragmatism always shining through.” 

She spent her life travelling the world and was an avid marathon runner, competing in over 30 marathons and eight ultra-marathons on all seven continents. 

“No wall was too high for Hickman to assail with inimitable positivity and she could crumble the toughest façade with her kindness and laughter,” her obituary read. 

Hickman’s obituary said her friends and family were in awe of her determination, completing marathons after chemotherapy and her second cancer diagnosis in 2023. 

“I’m not going to let living with cancer stop me running!” her obituary said, quoting her. 

“When I get back, treatment will begin, along with more travel.” 

Tracy Hickman after completing the Boston Marathon in 2023.Tracy Hickman after completing the Boston Marathon in 2023. 

By April, the cancer had spread to her brain and bones. She was given two months to live. 

“She was without her beloved ability to run, travel and work, and the pain and indignity had become unbearable despite excellent care and pain medication.” 

She chose May 22 to die by way of assisted dying and a secluded beach for her final moments. 

Hickman shared some words with her work, Baker Tilly Staples Rodway, during her final weeks. 

“Take care and remember to try to do something every day that makes you happy.” 

What is the End of Life Choice Act? 

Euthanasia has been legal in New Zealand since November 7, 2021, when the End of Life Choice Act came into effect following strong support in a public referendum. 

To be eligible for assisted dying, a person must be aged over 18 and must be experiencing unbearable suffering from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within six months. 

They must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability, and must be competent to make an informed decision. 

The End of Life Choice Act includes three-yearly reviews, the first of which will come up in November. 

Act Party leader David Seymour, who led the law change, said the feedback on the Assisted Dying Service had been overwhelmingly positive. 

But he hoped the review would recommend less restrictive criteria for an assisted death. In particular, he wants to remove a requirement that a patient has only six months to live. 

Seymour’s original bill would have allowed people with a “grievous and irremediable condition” to get access to assisted dying. He agreed to add the six-month clause to secure political support to pass the legislation. 


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