Cause for Justice opposing euthanasia in upcoming court case

Johannesburg High Court (PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks/Ground Up)

Human rights and public interest organisation, Cause for Justice, is participating as a “friend of the court” in an upcoming court case in which a medical doctor and her patient, both of whom have terminal illnesses, are challenging the criminal prohibition of euthanasia in South Africa law.

Dr Suzanne Walter and Diethelm Harck instituted court action in the Johannesburg High Court in August 2017, seeking to legalise physician assisted suicide (PAS) and active voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted euthanasia (PAE).

The trial was initially set down for hearing in the Johannesburg High Court from May 3 but was removed from the court roll on April 11 to allow the plaintiffs and defendants time to finalise outstanding matters relating the expert evidence, says CFJ in a media release.

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Both PAS and PAE are prohibited under current South African law and are treated either as murder (unjustified intentional killing) or culpable homicide (unjustified negligent killing).

CFJ says that in preparation for the case its legal team has met with an internationally recognised expert to discuss important aspects of its case.

According to CFJ, legalising the killing of human beings has far-reaching societal consequences: diminishing the worth of human life, inevitably erodes all other fundamental rights since each human right is anchored by the value of and right to human life. However well-intentioned, PAS and PAE is not ‘medical treatment’ or response to human sickness and suffering, it says.

To this end, CFJ says it is preparing to defend the constitutional value of human life and dignity (worth) in court. It is adamant that PAS and PAE does not protect human dignity, but on the contrary, destroys it. According to CFJ, the bedrock constitutional principle is clear: all human lives have inherent dignity (worth) and are of inestimable value.

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