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Cape Town - A bill is set to be introduced that will enforce the rights of terminally-ill and dying patients to refuse medical care that prolongs life.

Written submissions for comment on the proposed private member’s bill closed on Saturday with Cope stating that they had received more than 8000 submissions from interested parties on the matter.

The right for terminally patients to choose when their life should end has been a contentious issue in the country for several years, with numerous debates around euthanasia doing the rounds.

This as the World Federation of Right to Die Societies will gather in Cape Town next month to hold a conference that brings together more than 51 organisations that work to promote and protect the rights of those who wish to determine the way their lives end.

But Cope MP Deidre Carter said their bill was not about assisted suicide but rather allowing the natural process of death to occur without intervention from doctors.

“The National Health Act already allows for a patient to refuse medical intervention, the problems come in when you are so sick that you cannot speak for yourself and are kept alive on a machine when it is no longer your wish,” she said.

Dignity SA’s Willem Landman said the advanced directorate or living will serves to relay a patient’s wishes around when care should be withheld and provides protection for doctors when they act on those wishes.

“The important thing to note is that it is simply making explicit what is already in our Constitution and National Health Act but it is not mentioned by name and that is why we want to make it explicit because some doctors don’t act on it because they fear civil or criminal action,” he said.

“It is basically about stopping treatment so that natural death can take place. A finding of the Supreme Court in 2016 made it quite clear that treatment must be with consent and that treatment against our will is assault. But you get cases every day where doctors do not know whether they can respect a living will, its status is not clear although it is implicit in the National Health Act and is supported by the values in the Constitution but you get it every day where doctors say, no if I stop treatment now I may be sued by a family members. This serves to protect everyone.

“Many people feel very strongly about this, they see it as euthanasia, which it is not but the point is we have the right to chose when we are competent to do so. Some might disagree with that and call it playing God.”

Carter said they have been inundated with responses.

“We have had doctors and universities assisting us.”

Weekend Argus