The right of a terminally ill patient to request assisted suicide will be challenged by the Department of Health in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) tomorrow (Friday November 4) in a case arising out of a High Court ruling last year allowing Advocate Robin Stransham-Ford to die with the assistance of a doctor.
Stransham-Ford who was suffering from stage 4 cancer died naturally on the same day of the ruling — the first of its kind in South Africa.
The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) which will present arguments tomorrow in support of the State’s appeal against the ruling, said in a statement that the integrity of the medical profession is at stake and that the case is “a ground-breaking matter which highlights the timeless issue of sanctity of life”.
In a media release on Wednesday Jasa said it will argue that any change in the law permitting euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is a matter for parliament and not the courts.
“The Appeal must therefore be allowed and the judgment of the High Court in Pretoria be set aside. The judgment was handed down after the natural death of the deceased and for that reason alone the Judge should never have proceeded to deliver it.
“JASA further argues that the Judge’s reasoning both legally, constitutionally, as a matter of morality and what is in the common good was flawed. In so far as a dying person’s dignity may be in question, the long-standing prohibition against taking life is obviously reasonable and justifiable in terms of section 36 of the Constitution. JASA will highlight the horrendous experiences of other countries which have opened the door to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide where relatives have taken the law into their own hands, and even children are now being euthanased on medical advice,” said JASA.
Advocate Darryl Cooke, briefed by Attorney Elana Hannington of Norman, Wink and Stephens, will appear for JASA.
According to a report by timeslive.co.za the Health Professions Council of SA want the SCA to consider whether Stransham-Ford’s family had kept his death a secret so that the case could be concluded.
“The state is imposing this prohibition,” Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of
The Centre For Applied Legal Studies, which has been allowed to submit arguments in the case supporting the right to die, said in a statement this week that “denying a terminally ill person of sound mind the choice to end their life with the assistance of a willing doctor amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.
If the SCA upholds the High Court’s ruling the Department of Health is expected to take the matter to the Constitutional Court whose ruling will be binding on all courts.