NEW CHALLENGE TO LEGALISE EUTHANASIA IN SOUTH AFRICA STARTING TO NEAR TRIAL
A new legal challenge was instituted in the Johannesburg High Court in August 2017 in an attempt to legalise physician assisted suicide (PAS) and active voluntary euthanasia (PAE). In terms of current South African law, these acts are prohibited and are treated either as murder or culpable homicide.
During 2015 and 2016, Cause for Justice (CFJ) acted as a friend of the Court in the ‘first euthanasia-case’ (the first case of its kind to be heard under South Africa’s Constitution), the Stransham-Ford matter. In that case, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that PAS and PAE are rightfully treated as criminal acts in terms of South African law and in terms of the Constitution.
NEW DEATH IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO HUMAN PAIN AND SUFFERING
Any form of legalised active killing is a grave matter with consequences for society, reaching far beyond individuals whose lives are ended as a result of this practice.
The legalising of killing as a means of (medical) treatment or legitimate response to human sickness and suffering due to physical or psychological illness/medical condition, would represent a departure from the bedrock principle that all human lives have inherent worth / inestimable value (sanctity of life), which requires respect and protection.
No matter the extent to which a person may experience loss of quality of life, because each human life has inherent worth, we cannot allow third parties (and especially not doctors) to kill a person because of diminished quality of life, and pain and suffering they may experience.
TAKING A STAND FOR THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE
CFJ has been admitted to the case as an amicus curiae party (a friend of the court). Friends of the court assist the court in the interpretation and application of the constitutional rights, values and interests implicated by the facts of a case. Our aim is to adduce strong evidence and sound arguments to convince the court that euthanasia (in whichever form) is an impermissible violation of the fundamental rights to human dignity and life – and can therefore never be legalised or decriminalised under South African constitutional law.
This would be a major “win” for the sanctity of human life cause.
STATUS OF COURT PROCEEDINGS
The main parties (plaintiffs and defendants) are in the process of delivering summaries of the evidence their respective expert witnesses will present at the trial. After all the main parties’ expert summaries have been received, we will decide what expert evidence we need to present at the trial (if any). In addition to possibly contributing expert evidence to the case, our main contribution will be by way of legal arguments presented to the court, both by way of written submissions (heads of argument), as well as by way of oral submissions at the court hearing.
The case is expected to proceed to trial in early 2021. In the meanwhile, and leading up to the trial, we will continue with all necessary preparations to present a strong case in court.