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Assisted suicide bids on ice

Sean Davison and his mother Patricia

Sean Davison and his mother Patricia

Published May 15, 2015

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Cape Town - Dignity SA has temporarily backtracked on “sponsoring” terminally ill patients in the high court in Pretoria, where three applicants are set to make pleas for assisted suicides.

This comes after Dignity SA had initially stated that it had been preparing the cases with an aim to have legislation changed to allow assisted suicides for terminally ill people.

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The applicants were to follow in the footsteps of Robin Stransham-Ford, who achieved a successful ruling in court recently, but not before dying.

The government has applied for leave to appeal the decision of the high court.

In light of Stransham-Ford’s successful application, Dignity SA founder Professor Sean Davison said the organisation expected the Constitutional Court to make the same ruling.

“The high court judge’s ruling was based on the court’s interpretation of the Constitution,” Davison said.

The three applicants had been referred to its lawyers but “in light of the imminent appeal to the Constitutional Court we are not taking any further steps at this stage”.

“Dignity SA’s objective is to change the law through Parliament so others will not need to go to court,” he said.

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Stransham-Ford’s court order came about two hours after his death on April 30. The 65-year-old terminally ill cancer patient never got to know about his legal victory but it has sparked nationwide debate on whether assisted suicides should be made constitutional.

Yesterday, the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at Witwatersrand University joined the Hospice Palliative Care Association of SA and the Wits School of Public Health in hosting a panel discussion on “end-of-life decisions”.

Professor Dan Ncayiyana from the Department of Health said: “South Africa is not a safe place for euthanasia due to inequality, a broken and decrepit public health system, a lack of ethos and respect for human life and a poor track record of regulation and monitoring.”

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