The final step in the process for the controversial draft ‘Right to Die’ Amendment Bill to be legalised has been delayed by the election of the new Parliament.
Officially named the draft Amendment Bill to the National Health Act 61 of 2003, the bill seeks to legalise a living will, which would make it legal to assist the dying in passing over peacefully and on their own terms.
The bill was first brought forward by right-to-die advocates DignitySA, and was co-authored by one of its members, Willem Landman. According to Landman, many other countries are also reconsidering their standpoints on assisted dying.
Right-to-die activist Sean Davidson (58) appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, June 19 and was sentenced to eight years for murder. Davidson entered a plea deal for five years of the eight-year sentence to be suspended while he is under house arrest for three of those. He is also expected to perform community service for the three years.
Davidson pleaded guilty to three charges of helping individuals end their lives, including his friend Anrich Burger, who was left quadriplegic after a devastating car crash.
Davidson gained international infamy in 2010, when he gave his mother a lethal dose of morphine to help her die peacefully. Thereafter, Davidson spent five months under house arrest in New Zealand, and founded DignitySA the next year.
“The election of a new Parliament has delayed the process. The two instruments are both already embedded in the National Health Act 61 of 2003, but for various reasons doctors often refuse to act on them. That is wrong, given the principles of autonomous decision-making and informed consent,” Landman said to IOL. “So, the amendment seeks to provide guidance and give comfort to doctors who fear they might expose themselves to legal action. Many patients suffer needlessly and unjustifiably because some think, incorrectly, that they are the sole decision-makers.
“The living will and durable power of attorney for health care are two instruments that enable patients to make certain decisions when life is no longer worth living,” he said.