Sean Davison and his mother Patricia. Picture: Supplied
Sean Davison and his mother Patricia. Picture: Supplied

Murder or mercy? South Africans weigh in on Sean Davison sentencing

By Lou-Anne Daniels Time of article published Jun 19, 2019

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Cape Town - The sentence handed down to Sean Davison, the UWC professor who has been a tireless campaigner for people who want to make their own decisions about dying, has ignited fierce debate on social media.

Davison was sentenced to 8 years house arrest, five of which was suspended. The sentence was the result of a plea agreement which saw the right-to-die activist plead guilty to three murder charges. Davison had previously insisted that he had not committed a crime by helping three people who wanted to die.

In 2006, Davison fell foul of authorities in his native New Zealand when he helped his terminally ill mother, Dr Patricia Ferguson, end her life by crushing a lethal dose of morphine tablets and mixing it with water for her to ingest. In 2011 Davison pleaded guilty to assisted suicide as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to five months' house arrest.

During Davison's 2011 trial, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote to the New Zealand court asking for leniency for the academic. When the South African charges were brought, Tutu again voiced support for Davison's cause.

Dignity SA founder Davison, who is married to Rayne Pan with whom he has three children, had been expected to fight the charges against him and Thursday's plea bargain announcement came as a shock to many people who were watching the groundbreaking case with interest.

As soon as the outcome of the case was announced, South Africans began debating whether the sentence - and the crime Davison was accused of - was fair or not.  Here are some of their opinions:


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