Terminally ill man wins right to assisted death

The High Court in Pretoria on Thursday granted a terminally ill man the right to end his own life, with the help of a doctor.

Robin Stransham-Ford was granted an order that allows a doctor to help him commit suicide and the doctor shall not be subject to prosecution or disciplinary proceedings.

“The applicant is entitled to be assisted by a medical practitioner either by the administration of a lethal agent or by providing the applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself,” said Judge Hans Fabricius.

Stransham-Ford (65) a former advocate, was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in September 2013, and had hoped that Judge Fabricius would hand down an order to allow a doctor to give him drugs that he would use to end his own life.

His wish was that if unable to administer them himself, the doctor should be able to do it, without fear of being prosecuted.

He believed that it was an infringement of his constitutional right to dignity not to allow this.

The justice and health ministers, Health Professions Council of SA, and national director of public prosecutions opposed the application.

Doctors for Life and Cause for Justice were admitted as friends of the court on Wednesday morning.

Dignity SA board member Professor Willem Landman said it was a “fantastic ruling”.

NPA to appeal ‘right to die’ ruling
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would appeal a precedent-setting court ruling giving terminally ill Robin Stransham-Ford the right to end his own life with the help of a doctor.

“We are disappointed with the judgment and will take it on appeal … because it has far-reaching implications from a health point of view, constitutional rights, and for the powers of the NPA,” NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said on Thursday.

“This is precedent setting,” said Mhaga after Judge Hans Fabricius made the order in the High Court in Pretoria that Stransham-Ford, who has terminal prostate cancer, be allowed to die with the help of a doctor.

Mhaga said the order affected the powers of the NPA because they would not be able to prosecute the doctor and euthanasia was not legal in South Africa.

“Unfortunately the order has not been suspended so anything can happen from now until Monday,” added Mhaga.

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