- 1. DignitySA supported Adv. Robin Stransham-Ford in his High Court application to have his constitutional right to assisted dying respected. We did so from the deep conviction that he had constitutional rights to human dignity and freedom to bodily and psychological integrity. We believe that all South Africans suffering from terminal pain and distress are being illegitimately denied these rights. This constitutes intolerable cruelty and injustice.
- 2. Following Justice Fabricius’s ruling, we believe that public debate will be well served by an effort by all participants to engage seriously, honestly and constructively with his ruling, and therefore also with the authoritative sources on which he relied – the Constitution, case law, the South African Law Reform Commission’s 1998 report and draft bill, constitutional lawyers, tested safeguards (such as in Oregon), the Carter case in Canada, and the like.
- 3. We live and develop public policy in a constitutional democracy. In this context, we have noted the contributions to the public debate by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. We are indeed deeply concerned about their apparent stubborn refusal to engage openly with serious arguments regarding the interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution should be the final arbiter in this debate, but the ministers have not given any unambiguous indication that they recognise the status of the Constitution in this regard.
- 4. Indeed, there is understandable public disagreement about questions such as the following – balancing the right to dignity and the right to life; freedom of choice; legitimate limits of medical practitioners’ professional duties; whether suicide should be a purely personal matter; possible abuse of vulnerable persons; access by the poor; the effectiveness of safeguards; the limits of palliative care; and the relevance of God’s will and cultural beliefs in constitutional interpretation. But these matters are not settled by the ministers simply putting forward their personal preferences – or those of their departments, or the government – without due regard for, and recognition of, the centrality of the Constitution and constitutional interpretation. Rather than muddying the waters, they have a public responsibility to uplift the debate to the level set by our Constitution and to educate, rather than proselytise.
- Pretoria and Cape Town — 11 May 2015
Prince Buthelezi at Robin Stransham-Ford’s funeral:
“I developed a massive respect for him and Mario. It was their own personal struggle with cancer that challenged them to turn their attention to this disease,” said Buthelezi.
“I respect the courage they showed and Robin especially, who has brought about a debate that may be very controversial, but that needs to be engaged as an issue of human dignity. The Medical Innovation Bill may yet become his greatest legacy, but it won’t be his only legacy.”
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Assisted suicide ‘warrior’ lauded: Cape Town – A true comrade and a warrior who was enigmatic, charismatic and charming. | IOL News