The High Court in Auckland where Justice Tracey Walker ruled against the Director General of Health, allowing a dying man to see his son for the last time.
The son of a dying man had to take health authorities to court in order to see his father one last time.
Stuff understands the emergency court action allowed Oliver Christiansen to spend just over 24 hours with his father before the older man died of a brain tumour.
Oliver Christiansen lives in London and flew back to New Zealand on April 23 because his father was terminally ill and in palliative care at home.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the fact there are no new cases of Covid-19 on Monday is just a ‘point in time’ and not a reason to slacken.
At that stage the medical advice was that his father had weeks to live and Christiansen would still be able to say goodbye, once completing his mandatory 14 days in self-isolation at an inner-city Auckland hotel.
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However, the following day, his father’s condition took a turn for the worse and medical specialists revised his father’s life expectancy as likely to last between one and three days.
Christiansen initially wrote to the Ministry of Health on April 24 asking to be let out of enforced quarantine. He had no symptoms, was being monitored by medical professionals every two days and despite repeatedly asking for a Covid-19 test, he had been declined.
Christiansen asked the authorities to use their discretion on compassionate grounds.
Instead, authorities wrote back saying they could only excuse Christiansen if he had a medical condition that could not be treated in isolation and that “there is nothing we can change at this time”.
The following day, Christiansen wrote back to authorities, imploring them to look at his “exceptional circumstances”.
He told authorities his father had started asking “Where is my boy, where is my boy?”.
The next day Christiansen also wrote directly to the Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, and Health Minister David Clark.
Blomfield responded, saying that authorities were looking into the case.
However, Christiansen was again declined.
He then decided to take his case to the High Court in Auckland to have his situation reviewed by a judge.
Justice Tracey Walker heard the case on Friday and allowed Christiansen to visit his father.
She found the authorities had interpreted the rules narrowly, based on the criteria available on the Government’s Covid-19 website, and had failed to use their powers of discretion.
“It had the hallmarks of automatic rejection based on circumscribed criteria rather than a proper exercise of discretion required by the Health Act (Managed Air Arrivals),” Justice Walker said.
The judge said authorities entrusted with making important decisions cannot simply adopt rigid rules that prevent them from exercising discretion.
“No matter how necessary or demonstrably justified the Covid-19 response, decisions must have a clear and certain basis” she said.
“They must be proportionate to the justified objective of protecting New Zealand bearing in mind the fundamental civil rights at issue – freedom of movement and of assembly in accordance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.”
The judge said Christiansen had no symptoms of Covid-19. He had also been monitored by medical professionals every two days and had repeatedly requested a Covid-19 test but was declined because he was asymptomatic.
She noted his father was being cared for at home and therefore, health professionals and other patients were not put at risk.
Christiansen’s lawyer, Simon Foote QC, told the court that his client’s mother and sisters “desperately” support his bid.
Justice Walker ordered Christiansen travel by private car and wear full PPE while visiting his father.
“It is difficult to envisage more compassionate grounds than those presented here,” she said.