The will of the people must prevail on euthanasia law

05 May 2015 - 11:34
By The Times Editorial

South Africa should gives serious consideration to drafting a law legalising euthanasia, said Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricius yesterday.

His comments were made after the terminally ill Robin Stransham-Ford asked the court to allow him to die with the assistance of a doctor.

Since his judgment on Thursday, the country has been divided on assisted suicide. The government has said it will challenge the ruling.

The judge yesterday said that although he could not dictate to the state what it should do he hoped the subject would at least be debated in parliament.

He said the debate should be based on the Law Reform Commission report on assisted suicide and viewed through the lens of the bill of rights.

It is interesting to note that, in 1998, then president Nelson Mandela asked the Law Reform Commission to research “assisted suicide and the artificial preservation of life”. We are told that the commission favoured assisted suicide and wrote a draft bill.

The bill, which was to have been debated in parliament, was given to then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in 1999 — and nothing further was heard of it.

The government must allow South Africans to have their say. Debate will help us to arrive at a better decision.

We fully agree with the judge that “norms of the constitution should inform the public … rather than religious or moral ideas”.

He cautioned: “The applicant’s rights, which were sacrosanct to him, could not be sacrificed on the altar of religious self-righteousness.”

In his 60-page judgment, Judge Fabricius asks how “humans could tolerate a horrendous murder rate in many countries, including ours, and tolerate slaughter on the roads and continue to drive like lunatics every single day, and yet we allow a government to refuse a suffering person a dignified death”.

For democracy to be seen to be working, let the government take this matter to the people.