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Dignity SA pushes for assisted suicide legislation

Lobby group Dignity South Africa says it welcomes the draft bill which is expected to clarify the legal status of living wills.

Living wills, also known as advanced directives, are legal documents that allow individuals to state their decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.

The draft bill is set to be introduced by Cope chief whip Deidre Carter and will be ready for public comment by the end of this week, according to EWN reports.

It will also spell out the legal status of durable power of attorney for healthcare, where a patient gives another person the power to make decisions on their behalf.

Dignity SA’s Willem Landman says legislation on end-of-life decision making is long overdue.

Back in 1999, the SA Law Commission made recommendations to draft legislation that addresses living wills, pain management that may hasten death, the refusal of life support and assisted suicide.

The draft legislation, however, does not deal with the question of active euthanasia or assisted dying.

Landman explains that legal certainty is needed in order to prevent a patient’s wishes from being ignored by family members or medical practitioners.

Advanced directives should guide doctors so that treatment is withheld or withdrawn in certain circumstances.

— Professor Willem Landman, Dignity SA board member

People draft their own living wills but they do not know whether the medical profession will act upon them.

— Professor Willem Landman, Dignity SA board member

There’s a lot of uncertainty on the side of the medical profession.

— Professor Willem Landman, Dignity SA board member

Doctors do not know if they put themselves at risk for criminal and civil liability if they act on living wills or proxy decisions-makers.

— Professor Willem Landman, Dignity SA board member

He discusses existing legislation and case law that implicitly affirms living wills and proxy healthcare decision-makers.