Tweets from the Stransham-Ford Gauteng High Court case

The Times journalist Katharine Child Katharine Child @katjanechild tweets from court April-May 2015
Tweets on day of trial hearing
Philip Rosenthal Comment:
The Stransham-Ford affidavit was weakly argued and contained medical and factual errors. It is thus not surprising that to reach his decision judge Fabricius had to argue the case for the lawyers. Katharine Child’s other tweets below show admiration for the judge, which indicates her comment is not intended as a criticism. Nevertheless, this is highly irregular. A judge is supposed to be an objective neutral party – not argue the case for the lawyers.

Katharine Child tweets from court on Judge Fabricius reasons for judgment on 4th May 2015
The tweets summarising the discussion in court below are in reverse time order (i.e. first chronological comments at the bottom).

Fabricius: A good definition of Dolus Eventualis would be withdrawing of care allowing a sick patient to die (no antibiotics for pneumonia)

He may be v old but I am in love with Judge Fabricius’s brain. Now I need young man who is single with that brain. Applicants can mail me 😉

Judge let his #RighttoDie ruling stand even tho Stransham Ford died before it was made. If State appeals, it will likely head to Con Court.

In summary. State &HPCSA want RighttoDie order to be rescinded as if it never happened. Judge so far disagreeing

Judge says argument over whether the order allowing Stransham-Ford to die is moot (as he died before order) must be decided by higher court.

Stransham-Ford advocates arguing public interest means order & #RighttoDie precedent must not be squashed even though he died before ruling.

Whether u support #RighttoDie or not, you must know the judge is very well-read and SMART and a perfect candidate to decide on issue.

Fabricius standing by his ruling on #RighttoDie. Says if advocates not happy with reasons they must appeal not ask for order to be recalled.

Advocates all learnt about Stransham-Ford death from news. I feel proud to be journalist.

News had these advocates scrambling on Thurs nite to find out if Stransham- Ford had died. Now they using death to ask order be recalled.

State advocate wants order “recalled” so it no longer exists as precedent. Because Stransham-Ford died before order-which court didn’t know

State advocate Montsho is asking for leave to appeal as applicant died before committing Euthanasia. But judge wants Con court to rule.

Fabricius is explaining a lot to State Advocate. Quoting law & cases & pages by memory He says Con court has to decide if his ruling is moot

Judge says his order is forward looking. It establishes legal precedent. He says he would be inclined to grant leave to appeal he hints

Judge tells state advocate that the court did not know Stransham-Ford had died when order made. Also says need proof of time of death.
#Right to Die case. State advocate says Robin had passed away at eight am and judgement was afterwards. Judge wants death certificate.

Theresa Taylor (Journalist) Tweets on Stransham Ford Trial 29 April 2015

Theresa Taylor @journalist_jill

#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford’s advocate: Why should the method of your pain make a difference? A man on a ventilator is allowed to die
#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford’s legal rep replying. Says it’s not dignified for him to kill himself. “Also, he may not get it right.”
#RighttoDie Cause for Justice: We are members of society. We aren’t islands. We must view this within the wider context of society.
#RighttoDie Cause for Justice: You can’t just develop the common law to allow a single request.
#RighttoDie Cause for Justice: You can’t make law for one person. You would have to make a generalised finding.
#RightToDie Cause for Justice: It’s not Stransham-Ford that needs the court. Its the doctor who will end his life. He may face prosecution
#RightToDie Cause for Justice: What is the lethal method? Could it not be a gunshot to the head? At the moment we don’t know.
#RightToDie Cause for Justice: We haven’t identified the medical practitioner who will do this. What is the process isn’t dignified?
#RightToDie NGO, Cause for Justice, is also making submissions as a friend of the court.
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: The right to die is beyond the scope of the right to dignity within the constitution
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: If there is an argument it’s based on autonomy, not human dignity. ie. I can choose how & when I want to die.
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: This dignity is objective, not subjective. Asking a doctor to assist in your death doesn’t fall within this
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: If Stransham-Ford’s case has any basis in constitution it’s the right to dignity.
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: Asking a 3rd party to take your life goes beyond the scope of your rights.
#RightToDie Doctors for Life weren’t listed as respondents. They chose to make submissions. They represent 1400 doctors in various countries
#RightToDie @DignitySAfrica supporter says it was very traumatic. She supports a change to legislation.
#RightToDie @DignitySAfrica supporter says her son researched how to kill himself. He eventually took pills & tied 2 plastic bags over head
#RightToDie I interviewed a crying @DignitySAfrica supporter. She spoke of the trauma of her terminally ill son ending his own life
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: It is not a crime to commit suicide. Why can he not take his own life?
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: Stransham-Ford wants doctor to end his life. He has made no case that he is incapable of taking his life alone
#RightToDie Doctors for Life suggest that of Judge finds in favour of Stransham-Ford – he must severely qualify it
#RightToDie Judge Fabricius says again: I will rule on the facts of this case. Doctors for Life: What about the ripple effects?
#RightToDie Doctors for Life: Court can’t simply tick off the items listed on the draft legislation on assisted dying
#RightToDie Doctors for Life says the opinion of 2 doctors that the person is terminal should be treated with caution.
#RightToDie Doctors for Life are a pro life organisation & disagree with abortion, assisted suicide etc.
#RightToDie Legal rep for Doctors for Life is up. They asked to be respondents but weren’t allowed. They are allowed to make submissions
#RighttoDie HPCSA: Ultimately, assisted suicide is illegal. Judge: In the absence of legislation what can he do except approach court?
#RighttoDie Judge again emphasises: He must rule on the facts of Stransham-Ford’s case. Children, the poor, uneducated can’t be considered
#RighttoDie HPCSA takes the case back to wider issues: where would a favourable ruling leave terminally ill children?
#RightToDie HPCSA says that intention changes act. Doctor can give dosage of medicine that may cause death to stop pain.
#RighttoDie Judge says doctors inject doses of morphine so high they stop the patient’s heart. HPCSA says purpose is to stop pain
#RighttoDie Judge questions HPCSA, says switching off life support machine does kill the patient.
#RighttoDie HPCSA: When giving a pill intended for suicide, that pill kills the patient, not the illness. Different to stopping life support
#RighttoDie HPCSA: It is not switching off the machine that kills the patient, it is the condition the patient has that kills them
#RighttoDie HPCSA: There is a distinction btw withdrawing life sustaining treatment & giving a pill that kills
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#RighttoDie Judge asks Advocate for HPCSA what is the ethical difference btw doctor switching off machine & giving suicide pills to patient
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius says parliament is not forced to make his ruling on this case into legislation.
#RighttoDie Legal rep for Min of health & justice says court will be taking the role of parliament to make legislation if rules in favour
#RighttoDie Judge says applicant has proposed a list of safe guards ie. seen multiple doctors etc. Other cases will have other safeties
#RighttoDie Min of Health &Justice legal rep asks about the poor masses, how will they get access to this? Judge says there is legal aid.
#RighttoDie Legal rep says Stransham-Ford has a right to life. Judge says he doesn’t want his right to life.
#RighttoDie Legal representation for respondents: Minister of Health & Justice, as well as Director of Public Prosecutions responding
#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford has asked his doctor not face prosecution. Judge asks if court has power to tell authorities not to prosecute?
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: Common law could extended in terms of THIS case. Decision doesn’t need to be made with regard to other cases.
#RighttoDie Judge indicates that if he were to rule in favour of assisted dying, could be done on a case by case basis.
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: Ethics, philosophy, religion. They are all very interesting. But must they affect me as a judge?
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: The constitution says I must develop the common law on the facts of the case.
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: The question is the following: in the absence of legislation what rights does the applicant have?
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: You could write books on the meaning & value of life.
#RighttoDie Judge Fabricius: Bill allowing abortion was passed. Life is terminated there.
#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford’s advocate says otherside to palliative care: doctors can’t save you, but want to be paid to look after you
katharine child retweeted Theresa Taylor
Judge agrees- says he is of sound mind and understands his disease and prognosis.
katharine child added,
Theresa Taylor @journalist_jill
#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford legal team says he is an educated man. He is fully aware of the choice he is making.
#RighttoDie Stransham-Ford legal team says he is an educated man. He is fully aware of the choice he is making.
#RightToDie Judge Fabricius: doctor knows the outcome when he switches off the switch on a life support machine. He reconciles himself to it
#RightToDie Judge Fabricius: Dolus Eventualis: When you foresee the outcome of your actions & you resolve yourself to that.
#Righttodie Judge Fabricius says this is a case of dolus eventualis (made famous by the Pistorius trial).
#Righttodie Judge Fabricius: “What is the difference btw switching off machine or giving someone a pill? From an ethical/philosophical pov”
#Righttodie In 1998 Nelson Mandela requested the law reform commission to draw up legislation on assisted suicide. Never went to parliament
BREAKING: SA’s first court application on Assisted suicide will go ahead. Judge rules it urgent. #Righttodie @DignitySAfrica
#Righttodie Judge Fabricius says applicant Stransham-Ford has consulted relevant parties: multiple doctors, psychologists etc
#Righttodie There is no legislation allowing Assisted Suicide. Judge Fabricius says constitution says he can make common law.
How might the #Righttodie be abused? For example: a state hospital urging a terminal patient to choose to die if they don’t have capacity
#Righttodie Organisations opposed to the application have pointed out palliative care is largely non-existant in government hospitals
#Righttodie Doctors for Life, who are opposing, say this court is not appropriate. Judge says then who will hear it? Applicant is dying.
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#Righttodie Whether this matter can be dealt with before an urgent court is being debated. How much time does Stransham-Ford have?
#AssistedDying pro-euthanasia organisation @DignitySAfrica says our laws aren’t in line with the constitution
#AssistedDying Stransham-Ford wants the court to allow him to choose the place & time of his death. He says he’s in a lot of pain.
#AssistedDying 65yo advocate Robin Stransham-Ford is the applicant. He is dying of cancer & says he has the right to a dignified death
#AssistedDying Today the first application in South Africa on the right to die is being heard in the Pretoria High Court