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Dignity South Africa - Legalise Assisted Dying | my life ~ my choice

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Dignity South Africa – Legalise Assisted Dying | my life ~ my choice

Funeral Service for the Late Adv. Robin Stransham-Ford

Advocate of the High Court of South Africa — Message of Condolence
By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, President of the Inkatha Freedom Party

St Bernard's Church, Claremont - May 7th, 2015

The death of Advocate Robert James Stransham-Ford made front page news. He opened a debate in our nation and soon everyone was talking about death with dignity, assisted dying and our right to choose a peaceful passing when there is no escape from the raging storm.

Morality has been discussed, and ethical integrity. The meaning of compassion. The dictates of the Constitution. The significance of a legal verdict.

But in all this debate there are things that have not been said; things that are somehow more important. In honour of a valiant and noble man, let some of what must be said, be said by me.

Robin was a good man. Goodness is seldom the quality we first see in an individual. We notice their warmth, their intellect, their mannerisms. Only later, when we know them well, can we judge whether they are good. But, with Robin, it was clear from the moment I met him that here was a good man.

We met early in 2014, brought together by the fight against Cancer that was being waged by my Advisor, the Hon. Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini. Advocate Stransham-Ford and Dr Oriani-Ambrosini were brothers-in-arms, and had engaged a shared battle.

It was their own personal struggle with Cancer that challenged them to turn their attention to this disease. Both were men of great courage and convictions who deftly worked the law to change what others accepted as unjust, but unchangeable. They weren't daunted by difficult odds. In fact, I believe, tough odds were an inimitable enticement.

Their passion was focussed elsewhere when Cancer found them. But it got their attention as only imminent disaster can. Did it stop them in their tracks? Did it kill their fighting spirit? No. What these two men did with the brief time that was left them is more than many will do in a lifetime.

They did everything possible to live. They employed the full range of their remarkable faculties, researching and experimenting and fighting for life. But true to character they didn't do it just for themselves. They saw in their fight an opportunity to change the system. To change this fight for countless future Cancer patients, by loading the dice in favour of healing.

When Adv. Stransham-Ford and Dr Mario Ambrosini started the Cancer Treatment Campaign, they engaged a battle to allow medical innovation. They wanted every human being to have access to the treatments they worked so hard to secure for themselves. And they wanted every potentially beneficial treatment made available for research, peer review and use.

The Medical Innovation Bill may yet become Adv. Stransham-Ford's greatest legacy. But it won't be his only legacy.

The finest achievements of my friend's life are his sons, Ainsley and Berkeley, and his daughters, Felicity and Epiphany. A part of their father lives on in them. Knowing how much sorrow they endured in the past months as their father became increasingly physically frail, my condolences go first to them.

For now, I know, his death commands your thoughts. But be assured that in the time to come his death will be the least of what you remember. He lived a remarkable life, a life worth talking about. May your personal memories of your father be augmented by hearing more about him from those who admired, respected and loved him.

I want to thank Ms Penelope Stransham-Ford and Ms Rosanne Trollope for acting on the love they had for our friend by devoting so much of their lives to his care.

How generous they both were, how selfless and kind. I also thank dear friends like Ms Peta Hulett, who prayed for him constantly and encouraged him daily. You have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It is an exhausting journey. But having arrived on the other side, I pray that you will now rest in the grace of our Lord.

We, as the friends and family of Robin Stransham-Ford, are left to wrestle with our own beliefs. Not only about dignity and compassion, but about what we are willing to do to change this world for the better. Are we willing to swim against the tide? Do we have the moral courage to challenge closed doors and demand that they open?

Robin opened a door in South Africa, not only on behalf of the fight for life but on behalf of the fight to end unendurable, relentless suffering. We in this church will honour him for that. But we will remember him for so much more. We will remember his boyish grin, his ice blue eyes, his eloquent turn of phrase. We will remember his gratitude, his easy affection and the way he valued his friends. We will remember his intellect. We will remember his life.

Let me leave us with these apt words from St Paul to the church in Thessalonica:
"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another..."

As we do just that, we thank God that our brother now rests in eternal peace.

IFP Media, Parliament