Dignity South Africa executive member Sean Davison is facing a fresh charge of premeditated murder for the death of Justin Varian in 2015.
Cape Town - A fresh debate on whether South Africa should legalise euthanasia has been sparked.

This comes as Dignity South Africa executive member Sean Davison is facing a fresh charge of premeditated murder for the death of Justin Varian in 2015.

The State this week allegedly trumped up charges against the founder of Dignity SA, who has been campaigning for euthanasia to be legalised. The UWC professor appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The State alleges both murders were premeditated. In November 2013, Davidson was accused of killing quadriplegic Anrich Burger by administering a lethal dose of drugs. Two years later, he was accused of killing Justin Varian by placing a bag over his head and administering helium. The UWC professor appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

But co-founder of Dignity SA Professor Willem Landman said Davidson’s arrest raised speculation around the timing since the alleged offences happened five years ago.

“What makes one suspicious is why would a case that is five-years-old suddenly comes to court. Why did the NPA not act at the time? The first case he was arrested on was publicly announced, so I speculated that something triggered that,” he said.

South African courts are set to hear two euthanasia cases - the first being that of Johannesburg doctor Sue Walter, 43, who together with her patient, Dieter Harck, 68, are seeking permission for assisted dying next year. 

Landman said the next priority will be on the Walter/Harck court case expected to be heard at the South Gauteng High Court by March that seeks to challenge the laws that criminalises assisted deaths. Walter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and Harck suffering from motor neuron disease.

This case is similar to that of Robin Stransham-Ford who died just hours before the Cape Town High Court ruled in favour of his application, only for the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn the decision.

But founder of an anti-euthanasia group, Euthanasia Exposed, Philip Rosenthal said a vast majority of South Africans were still opposed to legalising assisted deaths.

“Euthanasia is not legal in South Africa so any action is classified as murder at the moment and we are arguing to keep it that way,” he said.

“By advocating against it we are advocating for the sanctity of all human life and what we have seen is that euthanasia is impossible to control.’’

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