Dignity SA welcomes assisted suicide ruling

2015-04-30 15:22
Dignity SA's Prof Willem Landman (Thomas Hartleb, News24)

Dignity SA's Prof Willem Landman (Thomas Hartleb, News24)

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Assisted dying ruling affects powers of NPA - Justice ministry

2015-04-30 12:17

Speaking after a court ruled a terminally ill man the right to end his own life, with the help of a doctor, the Justice ministry said the ruling would affect the NPA's powers. Watch.WATCH

Pretoria - Right-to-die organisation Dignity SA on Thursday welcomed an order granted by the High Court in Pretoria allowing a terminally ill cancer sufferer to commit suicide with a doctor’s help.

“It’s fantastic. It’s a huge victory for the applicant,” Professor Willem Landman, who is on the organisation’s board, told reporters after Judge Hans Fabricius read out his order.

“First of all, for the applicant, who now has the right to enlist the support of a doctor to supply him with the medicine to commit suicide. If he is unable to, he can ask the doctor to perform euthanasia.”

Lawyers for Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, a former advocate suffering from prostate cancer, had argued that continuing to live in pain and suffering infringed his constitutional right to dignity.

Dignity SA had helped him bring his application.

NPA to appeal

Fabricius’s order means that to charge someone with murder or culpable homicide for helping someone to die is inconsistent with the Constitution.

Justice ministry spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said they would appeal, but that this would not suspend the court’s order.

It reads in part: “The applicant is entitled to be assisted by a medical practitioner, either by the administration of a lethal agent, or by providing the applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself.

“Any doctor who accedes to the request of the applicant shall not be acting unlawfully and hence shall not be subject to prosecution by the 4th respondent [National Director of Public Prosecutions] or disciplinary proceedings by the 3rd  respondent [Health Professions Council of South Africa],” Fabricius read to the court.

Justice ministry wants reasons

After Fabricius had left the courtroom, journalists and TV cameras clustered around Landman on one side of the room, while black-robed lawyers, including Lesego Montsho, SC, for the justice minister, huddled on the other side.

Montsho said she was confident the appeal would succeed.

“We want those written reasons so we can attack them,” she said, jabbing her finger at something in front of her. Fabricius had said he would hand down written reasons on Monday.

Mhaga said they were disappointed.

“We are going to take it on appeal once we get written reasons, because this has far-reaching implications from a health point of view, constitutional rights, and the powers of the NPA on prosecutorial decision-making. We now can’t prosecute cases of assisted suicide.”

Read more on:    pretoria  |  healthcare

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