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Judge hears special testimony from terminally ill duo in euthanasia case

8 March 2021 1:02 PM
Tags:
Euthanasia
Assisted suicide
Right to die
Dr Suzanne Walters
Diethelm Harck
CALS

A medical doctor and her patient, both of whom have terminal diseases, are giving evidence in their bid to legalise euthanasia in South Africa.

Palliative care specialist Dr. Suzanne Walter (47) and patient Diethelm Harck (71) are leading the latest legal battle for the right to die to be legalised.

While the actual legal challenge will only be heard in the Johannesburg High Court later this year, special arrangements have been made so the pair can give their evidence while they still can.

The pair have been giving their evidence during virtual proceedings chaired by retired Judge CJ Claassen.

All other representations, including supporting expert evidence submitted by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), will be made at the end of the year when the actual trial starts.

RELATED: Terminally ill doctor and patient head to court in latest case over right to die

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), the Justice Minister, and the National Director of Public Prosecutions are opposing the application.

The HPSCA has argued that palliative care in South Africa is sufficient enough to alleviate suffering. They also claim that assisted suicide could be abused by unscrupulous doctors and families who want to benefit.

CALS attorney Sheena Swemmer says the centre will be presenting evidence in support of legalising euthanasia later this year.

She says that the euthanasia case could possibly be the most groundbreaking case that a South Africa court has heard in over 20 years.

The CALS will be bringing expert evidence from Oregon, Colombia, Canada, and the Netherlands where the right to die is legal.

We really want to present a variety so that, if the court decides that there is a right to die, we can really find something that fits South Africa, not just a 'Global North' perspective but a different cultures as well as the 'Global South' perspective.

Sheena Swemmer, Attorney and researcher - Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Wits University)

The HPCSA seems to be arguing that palliative care at this time is sufficient, which Dr. Walter is giving evidence against.

Sheena Swemmer, Attorney and researcher - Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Wits University)

The HPCSA is also asserting that there will be unscrupulous doctors acting with unscrupulous families to then hasten the death of terminally ill people so that they can benefit from it. It's a very strange line to work when you are the overarching board of a council for doctors and medical practitioners. It's definitely something that needs to be tested.

Sheena Swemmer, Attorney and researcher - Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Wits University)

I definitely explain as one of the most fundamental cases, other than what we call the death penalty case, because this ultimately determines the cornerstone of our rights, which is the right to life, the right to live with dignity but also the right to die with dignity.

Sheena Swemmer, Attorney and researcher - Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Wits University)

Listen to the discussion on Breakfast with Refilwe Moloto:




8 March 2021 1:02 PM
Tags:
Euthanasia
Assisted suicide
Right to die
Dr Suzanne Walters
Diethelm Harck
CALS

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