Yes, they mean well, of course they do, but really, how dare they? Do they know what Madiba wants? Do you? Or we?
Let’s stick to the facts:
- We don’t know what Madiba himself wants. We don’t even know if Graca knows. After all, in Xhosa custom it is considered taboo to talk about impending death. African Malane and John Maytham discussed this on Cape Talk recently. The podcast gives fascinating insight into the customs of others as it relates to death and dying: Africa Melane – Xhosa Culture
- Madiba himself commissioned a report and Draft Bill on Assisted Dying in 1998 from the SA Law Commission and tabled it in Parliament in 2000. This tells us that he either believed in the concept or, at the very least, believed that it needs to be debated.
- According to press statements, Madiba does not have a Living Will. How true this is or what their sources were, we cannot say. What we can say, however, is this: Without a Living Will or Advance Directive, unless a patient is brain dead, doctors are not allowed to switch off life support, regardless of the patient or family’s wishes. Doctors are obligated to use all means at their disposal to keep a patient alive. All an Advance Directive can achieve under current legislation is to give patients the right to refuse life support, medication and/or food or water and to insist on a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.
- DignitySA believes very strongly in the right to a good and dignified death. But, equally as strong, is our belief that only the patient can decide. It simply cannot be any other way.
Helena Dolny, wrote this in the article Nation needs to be ready to let Mandela go when Mandela was hospitalised in February this year:
“When Madiba is close to dying, I hope it will not be while hooked up to a life-support machine. I hope he dies in his own bed or his favourite chair, surrounded by whoever or whatever gives him the deepest feeling of peace. And, when he’s this close, I won’t be praying for his recovery. My thoughts will be on wishing him the most beautiful, peaceful, loving exit out of this world.”
She speaks for many, I think.
For a more recent article, go here:
Let’s talk about Dying: A parting gift
In closing, consider this:
Do we need to go back to a place in which our ancestors saw doctors as healers whose role was to help you towards life or death?
“We need a changed perception of doctors, armed as they now are with technological marvels that are always increasing… Perhaps the new generation is learning, that helping someone to die… is part of their compassionate role, their age-old role as the easers of suffering and, at the end, the easers of death.”
(Easeful Death by Mary Warnock and Elizabeth Macdonald)