Euthanasia activist Sean Davison might face multiple murder charges, the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court heard yesterday.
The founder of euthanasia advocacy group Dignity SA was in court on a charge of premeditated murder in connection with the death of Anrich Burger in Cape Town in 2013 in an alleged assisted suicide after he became quadriplegic following a motor car accident.
The court granted Davison bail of R20 000, with strict conditions restricting him from leaving the Western Cape without permission or contacting any witnesses. He is due back in court on November 16.
State advocate Megan Blows told the court yesterday that new information obtained by the state suggested that Davison may have committed murder in a similar fashion on more than one occasion.
Davison, a New Zealand-born biotechnology professor who lives in Cape Town with his wife and three children, told the court in a statement that he had not committed any offence.
In 2011 he was sentenced to 5 months house arrest in New Zealand for assisting his cancer-stricken, 85-year-old mother to die.
Davison is also president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies which held its 22nd biennial conference in Cape Town a fortnight ago, drawing together pro-euthanasia doctors, politicians and civil society organisations.
In 2015, in a case with which Dignity SA was closely associated, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that terminally-ill Cape Town advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, had the right to commit suicide with a doctor’s help.
The following year, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned the High Court’s order, citing flaws in that ruling — including the fact that Stransham-Ford died two hours before the order was granted, as a result of his cancer. The SCA said right-to-life issues should be determined in parliament.
The SCA ruling was welcomed by Christian groups opposed to euthanasia. Doctors For Life which testified as an amicus curiae for the state, said at the time: “Legalising physician-assisted suicide would have created a legal precedent that would have led to floods of euthanasia contagion. The judgement will serve to protect the sick, the aged and the vulnerable in SA who are the ones who would be most harmed through such a law.”
Dignity SA meanwhile is pursuing the legalisation of assisted dying and has joined Dr Sue Walter, who has been diagnosed with terminal multiple myeloma, as well as Dieter Harck, who has terminal motor neurone disease, as a plaintiff in an action instituted in September 2017 to the Gauteng Division of the High Court in which they are calling for the legalisation of euthanasia for consenting patients.
The pro-euthanasia campaign has also been taken to parliament with the release of the “Advance Health Care Directives” Private Member’s Bill, by COPE MP Deidre Carter in August.
Alerting pro-life Christians to the Bill and to the fact that there will be opportunities for the public to make submissions, Africa Christian Action’s Taryn Hodgson said legal euthanasia puts the lives of the elderly, terminally ill and those with disabilities under threat.
The pro-euthanasia lobby claims that the vulnerable would not be targeted, however evidence from countries where euthanasia is legal, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, shows that thousands of patients have been euthanised without their consent by nurses or doctors, she said.
In Canada, where euthanasia is legal, two doctors and a bioethicist are arguing for the right to take organs from people who have chosen to end their lives through euthanasia while they are still alive — a move which a pro-life journalist observes “confirms how the logical slippery slope is alive and well when it comes to euthanasia”.