Our vision is a world where every individual is afforded the basic human right to self-autonomy in end-of-life decisions
Our mission is to advocate for a change in South African laws that would enable mentally competent adults the option of a dignified death, should they so choose. We aim to do so by fighting unjust laws, addressing the Constitutional Courts and educating South Africans on their current and potential rights and options.
Dignity South Africa was launched 2011
The registered Non-Profit Organisation Dignity South Africa was founded as a consequence of Sean Davison’s arrest in New Zealand in September 2010 on an attempted murder charge. In a leaked book manuscript, he admitted to giving his terminally ill mother Patricia Ferguson, 85, a lethal dose of morphine. During his High Court jury trial Davison was cleared of attempted murder after agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge of assisted suicide, for which he was sentenced to a five month house arrest sentence. Since then Prof. Davison champions a law change in South Africa to save others the bitter and sorrowful experience he had to endure.
How we die is a question that concerns every single mortal being. Recent events have put this question in the spotlight. In August 2014 Parliamentarian Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, terminally ill, in the last stages of lung cancer hastened his imminent death by shooting himself. Our revered Madiba lingered for months hooked up to machines after doctors declared him to be in “permanent vegetative state”. In July 2014 Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu declared himself to be in favour of assisted dying should he ever find himself terminally ill and/or in a situation of intractable, unbearable suffering.
On October 4th 2014 DignitySA, a group committed to lobbying for changes that address the question of dignity and quality of life when we are dying met with a panel of expert lawyers to plan our way forward.
It is sadly ironic that it was under Madiba’s tenure, as our first democratic President, that a South African Law Commission was appointed to look into issues pertaining to dying well. In 1999, the commission, chaired by the late Justice Mahomed published its findings and recommendations. It is unfortunate that this important document and its recommendations continue to languish on the shelves of Parliament.
This means that for the last 15 years the State has not fulfilled its Constitutional obligation to respect, protect and promote its citizens’ fundamental human rights (as contained in the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the Constitution) to:
inherent dignity and to have their dignity respected and protected (Section 10 of the Bill of Rights) life, in respect of which death is an undeniable and ultimate part (Section 11 of the Bill of Rights) not be treated in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way (Section 12(1)(e) of the Bill of Rights) bodily and psychological integrity and security and controlling of their bodies (Section 12(2) and 12(2)(b) of the Bill of Rights)
Hereinafter referred to collectively as “Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights”.
One of the measures that DignitySA will take is to approach the Ministers for Health, Justice and Constitutional Development, and Social Welfare and the respective Parliamentary Committees, to review the Law Commission Report and to reconsider in the light of recent developments both nationally and globally, those rights to personal dignity which would bring untold relief to untold numbers of our citizens who are terminally ill.
A second measure is to initiate a court case as DignitySA has been approached by several citizens who are terminally ill and distressed that their Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights won’t be respected, protected and promoted and that they will die without dignity.
DignitySA has therefore decided to collaborate with attorneys, counsel and senior counsel, who are offering their services pro bono, to bring a case to the High Court in the first quarter of 2015. This is a matter which concerns all South Africans whatever their age, race, gender or religion; on this basis DignitySA will endeavor to support a representative group of applicants.
Court cases can drag on, and it is possible that some of the applicants may die before the positive outcome in court that DignitySA anticipates. We therefor urge that parliamentarians act to take further the work completed in 1999 and expedite an urgent bill through parliament –thus making Dignity’s High court case redundant. This would be the first prize for all concerned and a positive and powerful step towards making our constitution live, even when people are dying.
Administration & Office: Lee Last firstname.lastname@example.org Cell 076 – 942 4477 Fax 021 – 959 1325
Dignity South Africa PO Box 927 Cape Town 8000 South Africa
Thank you for your support! Dignity South Africa – Legalise Assisted Dying | my life ~ my choice