South African supporters of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia launched a campaign for legalisation this week.
South African supporters of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia launched a campaign for legalisation this week. The leading figure in the movement, Sean Davison, has recently returned from New Zealand after being convicted of helping his aged mother commit suicide in 2006. He spent five months under house arrest.
Davison, a professor of forensics at the University of the Western Cape, says that “This is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. It takes brave thinking and brave decisions”.
Two organisations are behind the campaign, Ethics South Africa and Dignity South Africa. The former has just released a position paper, “End of life decisions, ethics and the law”, calling for “statutory legal clarity and reform” for terminal pain management, life-sustaining treatment and assisted dying.
“Competent persons have a moral right to make their own choices, including choices about their own continued life in clearly defined conditions, and to act upon these choices. We have an ethical obligation to respect that right,” says the author, Professor Willem Landman.
The issue is sure to generate much opposition, says the Mail & Guardian. The former president of Pro-Life SA, Dr Claude Newbury, said “Our mandate [as medical practitioners] is to control pain. Once the medical profession thinks it is permissible to kill anyone, then that society is on a slippery slope to Auschwitz… Killing is not part of our Constitution.”
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