Davison 'overjoyed' about assisted dying ruling

Cape Town - Professor Sean Davison, who helped his terminally ill mother and quadriplegic friend die, is “overjoyed and relieved” that the High Court in Pretoria has granted an order that allows assisted dying to a terminally ill cancer sufferer.

“It is a relief that common sense has prevailed. It is a wonderful decision because defining how we die is defining how we live,” he told News24 on Thursday afternoon.

Davison founded the organisation Dignity SA, which helped former advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, bring his application to the high court.

His lawyers had argued that he continued to live in pain and suffering because of his prostate cancer and that this infringed on his constitutional right to dignity.

The court order on Thursday morning meant that Stransham-Ford was entitled to administer a lethal agent himself or have a medical practitioner assist him, without the threat of prosecution or disciplinary proceedings.

Davison, who works at the University of Western Cape, said he had been in close contact with Stransham-Ford throughout and met with him several times.

Stransham-Ford died "peacefully of natural causes," a short statement issued on Thursday read.

Speaking about Stransham-Ford before his death was announced, Davison described him as “highly intelligent and has a desire to do good in the world”.

'Courageous and brave'

Davison was arrested in New Zealand in 2010 for helping his 85-year-old mother, who had terminal cancer, to end her life. 

After a failed hunger strike by his mom, he gave her a lethal dose of morphine.

He returned to South Africa after serving a five-month detention for assisted suicide.

In November 2013, he also helped end the life of his close friend Anrich Burger, who was left a quadriplegic following an accident in 2005.

Davison described Stransham-Ford as “incredibly courageous and brave”.

“He wanted to leave an important legacy. He often commented on my situation with my mother and Dr Burger. He wished he had said something at the time and talked openly about how nonsense the law was.”

Davison said the setting of a legal precedent changed the situation for their draft bill on assisted dying and that the legislation would be pushed through Parliament much quicker.

The draft bill was expected to be presented to Parliament very soon.

The legal criteria for euthanasia proposed in the bill were that a person freely had to make the choice to die, they had to be mentally competent and a panel, independent of their family, had to assess their request.

Davison said they had removed the requirement of being terminally ill. 

“It is a person’s decision and who are we to play God and say you must live until the very end?”

He said he was not concerned about the order being appealed.

“I think the bottom line will always boil down to individual suffering at the end.”

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