Assisted death doctor could face multiple murder charges
Cape Town - A proponent of allowing the terminally ill to die with dignity through the legalisation of euthanasia, Sean Davison, arrested and charged with one murder, may be charged with several more, the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court heard on Wednesday.
But the Pinelands father-of-three insists he has not committed any crime after making his first appearance in court.
"It is and has always been my contention that I have not committed any offence as alleged in this matter," his lawyer, Joshua Greeff, read from an affidavit in support of his release on bail.
He was released on bail of R20 000 on condition that he, among others, does not leave the province. Davison is expected back in court on November 16.
Born in New Zealand and known worldwide for helping his 85-year-old mother Pat to die following her battle with cancer, Davison, 57, was arrested this week and appeared in court on a charge of premeditated murder relating to the 2013 assisted suicide of Anrich Burger, who became a quadriplegic following a car accident in 2005.
Police conducted a search and seizure at Davison’s home this week. State advocate Megan Blows requested a postponement to investigate fresh allegations of murder.
The postponement was also to allow for the confiscated contents to be examined.
“Advocate Blows informed the court that new information obtained suggests that the accused may have committed murder in a similar fashion on more than one occasion,” said National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila.
The charge sheet states that Davison killed Burger by administering a lethal amount of drugs in Granger Bay in November 2013. The murder is alleged to have been premeditated as part of a conspiracy.
In 2006, Davison crushed and mixed 18 morphine tablets with water before giving the concoction to his terminally ill mother living in New Zealand.
Davison was convicted and sentenced to five months’ house arrest for that. A registered member of the Health Professions Council of SA and a professor in the biotechnology department at the University of the Western Cape, Davison is also the founder and chief executive of DignitySA.
It believes that assisted dying should be legalised because individuals have the right to autonomy in end-of-life decisions.
They supported advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, a terminally ill Cape Town cancer patient, in his legal appeal to commit assisted suicide in 2016.
Stransham-Ford had terminal prostate cancer, and the Pretoria High Court granted his wish, but it was too late, as Stransham-Ford had already died.
Davison is also president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. The organisation held its biennial meeting in Cape Town earlier this month which drew medical practitioners, politicians and civil society organisations together.
DignitySA executive member Professor Willem Landman said they were surprised by the timing of the charge against Davison for Burger’s murder.
“They could have collected the evidence in a week; why now?” Landman said. He said they also felt for his wife and children.
Davison lives in Pinelands with his wife of 10 years Raine and children aged nine, eight and four.