South Africa: Campaign For ‘Mercy Killing’ Heads To Constitutional Court

Posted on August 21, 2014


Thursday 21 August 2014

South Africa: Campaign For ‘Mercy Killing’ Heads To Constitutional Court

Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in April 2002 followed by Belgium in September in the same year, while Switzerland allows suicide assisted by doctors but it is not legal.

By Staff Writer

Campaign group Dignity South Africa (SA), has intensified their push for legalizing assisted suicide by revealing plans to take the debate to the Constitutional Court.

Lee Last from Dignity SA said the organization’s directors’ plan is to meet with six senior legal counsels to discuss the human rights of assisted suicide.

If the experts agree that assisted dying has a case as a human rights issue, Dignity SA and a terminally ill patient seeking an assisted death will take the matter to the courts, she said.

This comes amid increased calls for a national debate following the suicide of Inkantha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini on Saturday August 16.

Ambrosini, who was in the final stages of terminal lung cancer, decided to end his life in order to put an end to his “long battle of suffering”, his family said in a statement. “This was a positive and very conscious decision on his part. He did not want to suffer anymore, nor did his family too.”

His death follows calls from Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in July for government to reconsider its laws on assisted dying.

In an open letter in the UK’s Observer newspaper, Tutu argued that South Africa’s laws “are not aligned to a Constitution that espouses the human right to dignity”.

Last pointed out that human dignity is at the heart of the Constitution and is mentioned more than a dozen times.

This is in contrast, for example, to the US Constitution which does not refer specifically to human dignity.

Though South African law currently prohibits assisted dying, Mandela himself commissioned a report and draft bill on assisted dying in 1998 from the South African Law Commission and tabled it in Parliament in 2000.

But according to Dignity SA, nothing has come of it, Mandela’s draft bill has simply “collected dust”, she said.

However, Last said that changing the law through “the parliament route” could take years of lobbying.

She said second option is to tackle it from a human rights angle, which is why Dignity SA is holding its meeting with legal counsels in October.

More than 130 peers asked to take part in the debate over the legislation and the outcome of which will be decided after the summer recess.

If Dignity SA succeeds in its push for adoption of ‘mercy killing’, South Africa will be the first African country to legalize Euthanasia with Netherlands being the first in the world in April 2002 followed by Belgium in September in the same year.

Meanwhile Switzerland allows suicide assisted by doctors and those with medical training but euthanasia is not legal in the country and in the USA, state of Oregon enacted a law that allows physician assisted suicide in November 1994 which government has tried to challenge but so far has not been successful.

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