Terminally-ill Cape Town man died of natural causes Thursday on the same day that a court granted him the right to end his life, a ruling that could pave the way for assisted suicide legislation. Retired advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, was reported to be heavily sedated and a statement from his family did not say whether he died before or after the ruling.
“Since receiving the heartening news of the ground-breaking judgement, we are deeply saddened to announce that Robin has passed away,” the family said. “It was in the presence of his family and carers that Robin died peacefully.” Dignity SA, which lobbies for assisted suicide legislation, said that Stransham-Ford “died peacefully of natural causes”. The High Court in Pretoria on Thursday ruled that Stransham-Ford, who suffered from prostate cancer, could have a doctor help him end his life, and that the doctor would be protected from prosecution. Medically-assisted suicide remains illegal in South Africa, but there have been growing calls for it to be legalised. Judge Hans Fabricius said in his ruling that Stransham-Ford was entitled “to end his life, either by administration of a lethal agent or by providing the applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself.” Dignity SA said it expected the judge’s decision to “set in motion the process of legalising assisted dying in South Africa.”
(from African Spotlight)
Sean Davison writes:Dear all,
I apologise for having to address my friends and family as ‘Dear all’ but things have been extremely hectic since the historic high court ruling on Thursday. It is easier to update you all in one go – I’m sorry it is impersonal.
In the two days following the court ruling the Dignity SA Face book page had 110,000 visits. I received 600 emails to my personal email address which is not publicly known.
As background Robin Stransham-Ford, a high court advocate, was terminally ill with cancer. He approached Dignity SA requesting us to sponsor his application to the court for an assisted death. Robin said to me that when I was in trouble with the law in New Zealand over the assisted suicide of my mother, he and other lawyers in South Africa said nothing, and now he was terminally ill he had a chance to make amends. On Thursday the high court ruled in favour of Robin Stransham-Ford’s request for an assisted death by lethal injection. Although the judge stated that his decision only applied to this applicant the court ruling sets a legal precedent Any terminally ill person can now expect to get the same ruling from the court.
In the coming week there will be legal challenges but these are unlikely to succeed since the judge’s ruling was based on his interpretation of the constitution, and South Africa’s constitution is considered to be one of the most liberal in the world.
As with other democratic countries our parliament is guided by the courts, and our parliament will be obliged to change the law. South Africa will now become the second country outside of Europe to allow for assisted dying (the first country was Canada earlier this year).
Dignity SA’s mission is not over yet; our sole objective is the get the law changed in parliament and we are now preparing our strategy to complete our mission. But we are thrilled at where we are now.
You can follow our progress on our webpage, or the FaceBook link on the Dignity SA web page: http://www.dignitysa.org/blog/
Best wishes to you all,