Is Euthanasia legal in South Africa?
Here we will look at if Euthanasia is legal in South Africa.
- It’s a legal minefield
- There are conflicting court rulings
- There is no legal stance on it
- Proponents cite the right to die with dignity
Assisted death, is a minefield of conflicting views when it comes to the law in South African.
The Constitution states that it is the right of every human being to die with dignity.
The South African Supreme Court of Appeal, on the other hand, has ruled against assisted death.
The controversy surrounding euthanasia in South Africa was never better illustrated than in the case of former Cape Town advocate, Robin Stransham-Ford.
At the end of April 2015, Stransham-Ford (65) died peacefully at the High Court in Pretoria ruled in favour of his assisted death.
Just hours after his passing, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein overturned the ruling.
Stransham-Ford was terminally ill with cancer.
What the Law Commission has to say
In 1999 the Law Commission recommended that assisted suicide or passive euthanasia be legalised.
The interpretation of this recommendation is that withholding care or medication would be lawful.
The Law Commission, however, took no positive stance on the issue of active assisted suicide.
In other words, it withheld judgement on the administration of a lethal dose of medicine to assist and/or hasten death.
While the Law Commission’s stance has no legal status, it was nevertheless an indicator favouring the recognition of assisted suicide
So what is the legal status today?
South Africans remain in the dark as to whether or not euthanasia is legal today.
The overturning of the ruling in the Stransham-Ford case threw the issue of euthanasia into a quagmire of confusion.
No one really knows whether euthanasia is lawful.
This leaves terminally ill patients who want to die, doctors who want to assist them and families who cannot bear to watch the suffering in a state of turmoil.
In view of the original ruling in the Stransham-Ford case, it would not be unreasonable for the man-in-the-street to believe that assisted suicide is now legal.
This viewpoint is further endorsed by the South African Constitution which states that every person has the right to die with dignity.
The legality of euthanasia, on the other hand, is still murky.
South Africans will have to wait for the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court to take a legal stance on the issue.
Conclusion – Euthanasia
To summarise, the legality of euthanasia and the conflicting stances taken by South African courts will have to be resolved, using the Constitution as the guideline.
Right now, however, no one knows what is legal.
Until such time as a final ruling is made. Euthanasia or assisted suicide in South Africa remains a minefield of legal interpretation, leaving the terminally ill, their doctors and family in the dark.
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