DignitySA is greatly relieved that our colleague, Professor Sean Davison, will not serve any prison sentence for having compassionately assisted three individuals to end their lives at their request. Those individuals’ suffering could not have been ended in any other dignified way than with the selfless intervention of a good Samaritan.
We thank the prosecuting authority, advocates and judges who recognised implicitly that there is something seriously amiss in our constitutional and legal system if assisted dying is equated with murder committed by a criminal with evil intent.
Of course, the outcome of the plea bargain means that the principled and constitutional arguments for assisted dying were not deliberated by the court.
However, it would have been a gross injustice if Prof Davison were to have been deprived of his liberty and family life, for what could have been many years, for a constitutional issue that the South African parliament has egregiously failed to address for more than 20 years.
This failure has been the case despite the publication of a report by the South African Law (Reform) Commission on end-of-life decisions researched and written at the request of President Nelson Mandela.
In addition, a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) is on record that there is a deficiency in our law in so far as our common law and Constitution are not on the same page in respect of assisted dying.
In future, when a court addresses this tension, a desirable outcome would be that the court follows the Canadian precedent and brings this to the attention of parliament in order for it to pass legislation consistent with our constitutional rights.
Parliament has a duty to address and recognise the constitutional rights of people who suffer and die in intractable and unbearable circumstances. Unlike several other groups in our society, they have not had their constitutional rights recognised. Moreover, they are extremely vulnerable because they lack the requisite political power to claim their constitutional rights.
DignitySA trusts that the application in the North Gauteng High Court, by Mr Dieter Harck, who is suffering from motor-neurone disease, will rectify what the SCA has identified as a “deficiency” in our law.
Indications are that there is significant and ever increasing public support for decriminalising assisted dying in South Africa.
DignitySA wishes to thank the media for keeping the debate about assisted dying alive and informing the public about the issues at stake.
In a plea bargain agreement with the South African court I pleaded guilty to the charges I faced and received a three year house arrest sentence at my home in Cape Town.
I know there will be many people disappointed that I accepted a plea bargain, and did not go to trial. If I had done this I may have been found not guilty, and thereby lead to a law change. However, I was facing three life sentences in prison and the stakes were too high. I have three young children and my children want a father not a martyr.
I want to thank the thousands of people in South Africa and around the world who have sent messages of support and encouragement. The nine months since my arrest has been a harrowing journey, and this kind support has made it bearable.
Tseliso Thipanyane and Fikile Makane 2019-03-15 (City Press)
Below, an extract from this excellent opinion piece.
Thipanyane is chief executive officer (CEO) of the SA Human Rights Commission, and Makane is an intern in the CEO’s office
Human dignity is the essence of what defines us as individuals and as members of our respective societies and communities.
The negative attitude towards suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia, while understandable from a religious and cultural point of view, is difficult to understand and accept from a human rights perspective, with the right to dignity in mind, in particular.
The rights to dignity and “security in and control over their body”, both entrenched in the Bill of Rights, clearly provide a basis for the acceptance of euthanasia, and, at the very least, physician-administered euthanasia.
These provisions provide a basis for a more enlightened and progressive approach to these issues.
THE RIGHT OF EVERY PERSON TO INHERENT DIGNITY AND TO HAVE THIS RIGHT RESPECTED AND PROTECTED FORMS ONE OF THE FOUNDING VALUES ON WHICH THE POST-APARTHEID AND DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY OF SOUTH AFRICA IS FOUNDED.
There are a number of reasons that inform this view:
The National Health Amendment Bill has been completed and was introduced to Parliament on 27 February 2019.
Our indebtedness to Deidre Carter MP, Chief Whip of the Congress of the People (COPE), and everyone else involved in getting this Bill this far cannot be stressed enough.
DignitySA is continuing its fight for terminally ill South Africans to die with dignity. DignitySA has applied to join as a plaintiff in an action instituted by Dieter Harck in the High Court.
Our application has been objected to by HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa). Their objection will be heard in open court, the date of which is yet to be determined.
In a medical emergency, or any other circumstance which leaves you unable to communicate, your Advance Directive (Living Will) will help those responsible for your care to decide on your treatment.
Advance Directives are a way for you to give consent for certain situations where you might want or not want treatment. They allow you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if you can't do so yourself.
Allied Medical Professionals for Assisted Dying (AMPAD) is a group of healthcare professionals who do not believe that dying patients should have to suffer against their wishes or travel abroad to die.
Having medical professionals publicly support assisted dying, with stringent safeguards in place to protect the vulnerable, is enormously helpful to our cause.Your bold support can make a difference.
"Brittany walked to the edge of life and dove, face first, arms arched forward, fingers pressed together, piercing the surface of the whatever-comes-next with precision.
Brittany taught us the power of personal story. She taught us that speaking up, even when our voices shake, is important. The stories of the terminally-ill are important."
Personal stories go a long way towards creating awareness and dispelling myths whilst, at the same time, strengthening the case for a law change.
We appreciate how deeply personal these stories are and assure you that yours will not be published without your final approval.
To share your story, click the link below.