Doctors secretly help people die - prof

2012-07-12 22:17

Cape Town - South Africa should legalise euthanasia as many doctors are already secretly helping elderly patients to die, Western Cape University Prof Sean Davison said on Thursday.

"Many doctors have said to me privately that they've helped people to die... at their request. It's the choice of the doctor [though]... and they have to do it behind the scenes illegally," he said.

With no choice whether to die or not, critically ill patients had to rely on the graciousness of their doctor.

"If you don't have a law change, you might be playing Lotto with your doctor."

Davison was addressing the Cape Town Press Club in Newlands.

He returned to South Africa in May after serving a five-month detention in New Zealand for helping his cancer-stricken mother end her life.

She had tried going on a hunger strike, but when that failed he gave her a lethal dose of morphine.

Davison pleaded guilty to assisted suicide in the Dunedin High Court last year. He was originally charged with attempted murder and was arrested in September 2010.

On Thursday, he said that he was continuing efforts to bring a draft euthanasia bill before Parliament, and would approach politicians in the next few months.

His organisation DignitySA was petitioning support on its website.

Davison said he had received considerate support from the legal profession.

"The difficulty has been getting the medical fraternity to speak out... mostly because they signed the Hippocratic Oath."

Ethics Institute of SA CEO Prof Willem Landman had drafted a position paper on euthanasia for the organisation.

In it, he said the key question was whether legalising assisted death would be consistent with the bill of rights in the Constitution.

He concluded that a South African had constitutional rights consistent with the moral right to a peaceful and dignified death.

There was a need for a comprehensive bill that would clarify the legal position on not only assisted dying, but also terminal pain management, the withholding and withdrawing of potentially life-sustaining treatment, and living wills.

  • lindo.radebe.7 - 2012-07-12 22:48

    I fully support Prof. Davidson, why can't we have morals for voluntary euthanasia and have them for involuntary Termination of Pregnancy?

      Cassandra Eileen Olivier - 2012-07-12 23:00

      Euthanasia is just a nice way of saying suicide. I am not sure I could ask someone to kill me no matter how much I was suffering...and besides would I really want my death consensus? No if I was suffering and wanted to die I would rather do it myself

      waynes83 - 2012-07-12 23:20

      Cassandra, so what would you do if you cannot actually do it yourself. If you cannot move your arms after being paralysed in a car accident, how would you do it then? Being ignorant about it does nothing to help anyone's cause.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-12 23:24

      Cassandra, have you ever watched someone you love very much die slowly and painfully? Evidently not. Then I guess also you have not been begged to allow them to die. It's heartbreaking and leaves the family drained and barely able to cope - especially after months of suffering. We are kinder to our dogs and cats when their time comes.

      Chumscrubber1 - 2012-07-13 07:29

      Not a God botherer myself, but if there was a God, would he have allowed people to suffer years before dying? Its human intervention that keeps many people alive, against their will nogal. Human abilities should be used for kindness, not cruelty. Pointless staying alive when living is like being in hell.

      cassandra.e.olivier - 2012-07-13 22:21

      Bless my Uncle is dying a slow and painfull death so dont talk about stuff that you dont know anything about

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-14 11:10

      Cassandra, I happen to know everything about it. My father died a long and painful death - it took a year for him to go and wrenched our hearts out every time we saw him. I take it your uncle doesn't do that to you when you see him? Do not presume that I do not know what terminal illness does to the sufferers and the family. I too am terminally ill.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-14 11:12

      And another thing Cassandra, you say you would rather do it yourself ... What if you could not? Have you thought about that?

  • Bless Boswell - 2012-07-12 23:29

    Sean Davison, I want to let you know that I applaud what you did for your mother. It was an act of kindness and love - performed in spite of the fact that it could and would carry a heavy penalty. I do hope that one day someone might stand up for me too.

      dee.980 - 2012-07-13 00:33

      Me too. We lovingly do this for beloved animals yet it is illegal to extend this compassion to humans. I'm fully aware that there needs to be legally explicit delineation of murder from euthanasia - but as with a 'watertight' will, it must surely be my right to ask for assisted humane suicide EVEN BEFORE I am mentally or physically incapacitated. I don't subscribe to the modern medicine psyche that we should all be living 'forever' by whatever (commercial) means available. Old age is not for sissy's and greatly over rated in my book!:)) I have lived life on my terms, aspired and achieved independence - and fully intend leaving this earth that way - so pray I wont have to resort to illegal or painful or messy means!!!

      sean.lambie.3 - 2012-07-13 02:26

      @bless.boswell - I agree 200% with you !!!!!!!!!!!! No 400% !!!!!!!!!!!

  • phae.rayden - 2012-07-13 00:00

    It is almost inconceivable for the choice not to endure terrible suffering, and loss of dignity until inevitable death be taken away from a person. I have deep respect for Doctors who assist their terminal patients to die humanely, it is an act of deep compassion.

  • zaatheist - 2012-07-13 04:17

    We have an absolute right to decide. Those that choose this option can sign a living will giving the doctors the right to decide if one is incapable of conveying the request.

  • brionyl.french - 2012-07-13 05:04

    I agree. I want to be euthenaised when its my time. Im sorry how can it be inhuman for us and not animals. Why must our families sit and watch us suffer, become a burden...I say YES! i have been for years!!!

  • Dawn Campbell Gibson - 2012-07-13 05:16

    Charles - Acts of the Devil? So it is an act of god for people to suffer? I would then rather commit an act of the devil!!!

  • lana.crous - 2012-07-13 05:50

    Bravo! If we can help our pets to a quick death when they are beyond help and/or in terrible pain, please give us the same option... It's long overdue.

  • Jane Mdakane - 2012-07-13 06:10

    wow Lindo a valid point you've raised...!!!!!!

  • Stewart Croucamp - 2012-07-13 06:31

    I support it! We have a right to die if we cannot cope with life.

  • maureen.churchill.9 - 2012-07-13 06:57

    Where would one draw the line? who makes the decision for the patient to die, would it go before a panel of doctors at the patients request to end it. No kith or kin must be involved in the decision, although they would be told of the patients request. An attorney must be appointed re the will, finally an assigned judge. Makes me go cold thinking about it, are we intending to play God. I knew of a lady who begged to die, everyday was a mission to live, and I knew then that if I was that ill and in pain I would PAY to be snuffed

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-13 07:38

      What you propose might bankrupt a family that is already carrying a heavy financial burden. There has to be a simpler way. Tying it up with expensive legal processes will complicate things. I have an average family with average intelligence. I am sure that if I took a decision to shuffle off (for whatever reason) they would respect that. As long as they were informed of my decision - it would be important to them that I got what I wanted.

  • clive.little.96 - 2012-07-13 07:22

    I do not agree with this your life is in Gods hands you are not your own.You belong to put you faith in him and him alone.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-13 07:32

      Clive, each and every one of us was born with the power of reason and a will. God gave us the intellect to exercise both. If he is a God of love he would not want us to suffer a painful death. Are you saying we should just wait for death even though the pain may be excruciating and unbearable and even if the financial implications are crippling the family?

      charlesmakgale.radingoane - 2012-07-13 07:57

      every decision does not come from GOD

  • Guy - 2012-07-13 07:40

    Just because "everyone is doing it", doesn't make it right. Also, just because "everyone is doing it" doesn't stop you being an idiot.

  • mary.phadi - 2012-07-13 07:45

    a person is not an animal.

      Ball - 2012-07-13 08:21

      A person is an animal. At least biologically.

      mary.phadi - 2012-07-15 08:47

      Animal spirit and human spirit not the same. Ask a person who has killed person and an animal. I have been through a tough time when one of the family members was sick, cant finish off someone.

  • layla.perry.3 - 2012-07-13 08:01

    Those in favour, put your money where your mouth is. Go to to sign the petition to seek law change. No mother should need a Sean!! No Sean should need to face the choices Sean was made to face. Oregon, USA got it 100% right.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-15 13:43

      Mary- are you saying that a person does not have the right to request a merciful end? The medical industry makes millions out of "bringing people back" from the edge, again and again, at great cost both financially and emotionally. And all the families to is suffer and pay up. It should be against the law. People should be allowed to die if they wish.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-07-15 13:44

      100% Layla. I hope it's in place when my time comes.

  • UNITY - 2012-07-13 08:03

    Ever been to a government hospital. When u have a loved one in pain and in need of life changing care..all the Drs see is the age of the individual..and a chance to experiment..or let the patient fight it out...they keep as mum as possible..and u must prepare for the worst in aypny event. So does it really matter... U just a number in any case..unless its private healthcare..even there yor life is still in the Drs hands.

  • marleze.baartman - 2012-07-13 08:04

    Although I understand the Prof's situation and where people come from who is pro euthanasia, I just hope that it will never become legal in SA, because it's a huge ethical dilemma and it can be easily explioted in a country like this. And then what do u call those drs that perform this? They are now not doing what they were trained for which is promoting health.

  • Shaun McDermott - 2012-07-13 08:04

    Hippocratic Oath means nothing nowdays.

  • lskosana3 - 2012-07-13 08:11

    I had an aunt who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and she didn't have medical aid. The useless government hospitals sent her from pillar to post for over a year until her tummy started swelling up. She was in unbearable agony everyday of her life and BEGGED to die and even though the family was against that, i secretly hoped that she would die and be relieved of the pain because her death was inevitable. The day we got the call that she had passed was a sad one but i was glad she was no longer suffering, and i'm sure she is as well wherever she is. So yes, people should be given the right to end their own lives when the end is inevitable instead of being forced to endure pain unnecessarily

      emmanuel.vuma - 2012-07-13 10:04

      That's your case and it doesn't make killing right. Doctors cannot bring someone back to life when they are about to die but they want to be allowed to kill them if they are not smart enough to make them better. Being in hospital doesn't mean that the doctors own your life. If they can't make the situation better, worsening it doesn't make them better than idiots.

  • terry.vanwyk.9 - 2012-07-13 08:33

    what a awesome breakthrough as we have just lost a good friend to pancreatic cancer and he lay in high care thet he could not speak but if it was only legal he would not have suffered the way he did. I am 100% behind the breakthrough i am

  • flysouth - 2012-07-13 08:35

    Compassionate doctors have always done this.

  • - 2012-07-13 09:24

    What if you wish to recover buy the kids want their inheritance? I'd like to know that I can't be killed against my will. And none of the legislative safety measures make a difference in reality - they only serve to reassure MPs when it comes to voting for legislation.

  • Ursula Forrest - 2012-07-13 09:42

    I'd love to be put out of my misery and die gracefully rather than suffer in agony with cancer if it came to that. I say euthanasia is a great idea. People should be able to chose to die with their dignity in tact.

  • tara.streak - 2012-07-13 10:17

    I fully agree with this idea. If it works here the same way as Dignitas it is not murder, every patient goes there and dies of their own free will. I do understand that this would not be the choice of most people, but those who want to should be allowed the option. For a better understanding I recommend watching "Choosing to Die" by Sir Terry Pratchett. Very moving.

  • teresita.cuniberticillie - 2012-07-13 10:24

    If a doctor is willing to of granny for money, it does not matter if it is legal or not. As for people making bad decisions, if it was legal their would be a process and the option would only b e for the terminally ill.

  • Gill McCain - 2012-07-13 10:29

    All those who disagree with the premise of an assisted death obviously have not watched their loved ones suffer unbearable pain at the end of their lives. Such a kindness would have eased their terrible last days and weeks because when it is clear that there is no chance of improvement and only of more trauma then death is a release for all. We would not allow a dog to go through what my mother had to endure - when you have witnessed such pain, both physical and emotional then you can comment with authority.

  • joema.sevat - 2012-07-13 12:39

    Lindo.radebe.7 raised a point that I have yet to see all these holier than thou morally outraged nay-sayers comment on: We have legally approved and "socially acceptable" murder in our Termination of Pregnancy legislation which is used to "ease" the life of a relative (mother) of the person being Terminated. Please will these zealots - who have never sat helplessly at the side of someone who cries in unimaginable pain "please, please, let me die" while doctors keep them alive with drugs and machines - tell me how come it is so morally reprehensible to allow someone to CHOOSE to die with dignity?

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-22 20:49

    I want to raise something which hasn't been raised here but is just as pertinent. If it is okay for Doctors to create life in a test tube for those who can't have children naturally then why is it so wrong for someone with a terrible incurable debilitating illnes to be afforded a death with dignity? I have known people both young and old with incurable illnesses and the choice should rest with the individual and not lawyers and doctors. One can refuse treatment for an illness such as cancer and choose alternative care which improves the quality of the life you have left iso chemo and radiation etc. The oncologist will not advise it since he makes money from keeping you alive for way longer than necessary even though he knows you are going to die. A very dear friend of mine chose this route and he was actually making jokes right up until he went into a coma and died. There are dilemma's here such as one's religious beliefs should you have a baby who will never have quality of life. Should you let that child die mercifully by withholding any treatment? What of a child born seemingly normal but subsequently diagnosed with a degenerative disease whose quality of life will never be like that of his peers and he will lose all neural control over his entire body? what of an illness which requires 129 invasive procedures b4 the sufferer reaches the age of 28? His parents spared nothing to keep this young man alive including their health and ultimately he choose to take his life alone

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-22 21:11

    Biologically humans are sentient beings as are animals and we do not allow our beloved pets to suffer but humanely and peacefully aid them in ending their suffering. We make that decision with great pain but we know it is right. How much more important is it that when a loved ones suffering and quality of life has reached the point where they wish to be assisted to die and voice that repeatedly, that we should accede to their wishes and let them go. I am 1000% behind legislation which would make this legal allowing the sufferer to say goodbye and slip gently into whatever lies beyond that corporeal suffering surrounded by those of his loved ones who have the love and courage to grant his wishes and be with him when he takes his last breath.

  • WarrenStylin - 2012-07-23 08:40

    I say each person should have the right to die when they want to, whether they are terminal or healthy. If they don't want to be here who are we to tell them that they are wrong?

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