Euthanasia prof ready for global battle

For Times LIVE by Aron Hyman | 06 May, 2016 09:56

Times Live

NOMINATED: Prof Sean Davison could lead a global pro-euthanasia organisation
Image by: SUPPLIED

A Cape Town academic who helped his mother to die has been nominated to lead the global fight to legalise euthanasia.

Prof Sean Davison is the founder of Dying with Dignity SA, which supported advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, a terminally ill Cape Town cancer patient, in his legal appeal to commit assisted suicide last year.

The high court in Pretoria granted Stransham-Ford’s request shortly after he died, and Davison said yesterday that the world was now watching to see how parliament will handle legislation on assisted death.

“It’s very likely that (the ruling on Stransham-Ford’s request) will lead to a law change. Other countries are watching South Africa. We are seen as a role model for moral reform,” he said.

Davison was arrested for attempted murder in New Zealand after assisting in the death of his mother, who was dying of cancer, by crushing morphine pills into water and helping her drink it. He was convicted of assisting suicide and placed under house arrest for five months.

He will present new neuroscientific research, which he has conducted at the University of the Western Cape, at this year’s World Federation of Right To Die Societies conference in Amsterdam, where he will also run in the presidential election.

“You can monitor brain activity through various instruments . and study the stress experienced by a person facing death and how that stress is relieved when they know they have an assisted death,” he said.

“In the neuroscientific world suicide is seen as an irrational thought. In my opinion, people at that stage of life, facing unbearable death, it’s probably the most rational thought they could have.”

Davison said tests had shown women found suicide harder than men, and in countries where assisted death was legal many more women had taken that option; therefore a ban on euthanasia amounted to discrimination against women.

“A woman is using her whole brain to end her life, the whole brain is saying ‘I can’t do this’. Whereas a man, with a more compartmentalised brain, is able to isolate that thought and is able to end his own life,” he said.

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