EUTHANASIA IN SOUTH AFRICA

STRANSHAM-FORD v MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES AND OTHERS 2015 (4) SA 50 (GP)

Medicine — Euthanasia — Voluntary active euthanasia — Doctor-assisted suicide — Court granting application by terminally ill person for order allowing willing doctor to assist him in terminating his life — Doctor may either supply or administer lethal substance — Conduct would not render doctor criminally or civilly accountable.

The court granted applicant, a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, an order allowing a willing medical practitioner to assist him in committing suicide by the supply or administration of a lethal substance. The order stipulated the following —
• that the acceding medical practitioner would not act unlawfully and would not be subject to criminal prosecution or disciplinary proceedings;
• that in the context of assisted suicide by medical practitioners, the common-law crimes of murder and culpable homicide — insofar as they made for an absolute prohibition — would unjustifiably limit applicant’s constitutional rights to human dignity and bodily and psychological integrity; and
• that the order would not otherwise affect the common-law crimes of murder and culpable homicide in the context of assisted suicide by medical practitioners.
In the course of its judgment the court dealt with —
• the current legal position
• the constitutional imperatives that required, in the context of the relief B sought, the development of the prevailing common law, in particular the right to die with dignity as an adjunct to the right to human dignity • concerns about the legalisation of active voluntary euthanasia • developments in foreign jurisdictions • the parties’ arguments for and against the granting of the application

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