Hospice & Palliative Care Association Response to Walter case

22 September 2017
Hospice Palliative Care Association advises access to quality palliative care not euthanasia

HPCA is concerned to see a call for the legalising of euthanasia in South Africa. We are saddened to hear of Dr Sue Walter’s diagnosis and offer her every assistance at this difficult time. However, we believe that pursuit of legalising euthanasia in South Africa is irresponsible. International discussion on the issue has resulted in the majority of countries rejecting euthanasia and assisted suicide and proposals to change laws designating these acts as illegal.

The recent debate in New Zealand included a submission from Dr Martin Sullivan, a lecturer in Disability Studies & Social Policy at Massey University, stating that “euthanasia and assisted suicide will place already vulnerable people – disabled people, elderly people, people with chronic conditions, sick people – in an even more vulnerable position when they are sick or near the end of life. We live in society which valorizes the ‘able-body’ and ‘able-mind’ to the extent that to be disabled in any way is to be highly devalued to the extent that it is better to be “dead than disabled.” The ‘right to die could become the ‘duty to die’ for these people.

In South Africa, Prof Daniel Ncayiyana, wrote an editorial in the South African Medical Journal in 2012, describing a “pervasive lack of an ethos of respect for human life” in South Africa. Together with severe constraints on health care facilities, this means that there is “a real risk of euthanasia becoming a substitute for proper care” in the South African situation. He also notes that “euthanasia seems to be a concern among a small, largely white elite in South Africa” and that legalizing “euthanasia in South Africa will potentially reflect the inequalities of the country ‘benefitting’ only the well-off while opening up the potential for perverse application among the poor and other vulnerable groups”.

Calls for legalising euthanasia make the statement that there will be checks so that there is no abuse of a new law. However, crossing the line to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide violates the societal injunction against killing another person. Once the mindset has changed to accept this, additional reasons to allow euthanasia follow.
For example, a proposal was recently put to parliament in the Netherlands that elderly people who ‘have completed their life’ should be allowed to ‘benefit’ from euthanasia even if they are in good health. Fortunately, the Royal Dutch Society for the advancement of medicine opposed this suggestion concerned about “feelings of insecurity amongst the elderly and the stigma of old age.”

We recognise that significant emotional adjustment is required when facing a serious diagnosis. We have been concerned for some time by the isolated practice of some palliative care specialists and the loneliness of this position, without the support of a multi-disciplinary palliative care team. HPCA supports personal autonomy but we recognise that an individual’s choice is not in isolation of other people, and there is a need to consider relational autonomy and the impact of individual autonomy on others.

It is always hard to make an adjustment from clinician to patient and to accept assistance but hospice in Johannesburg would be willing to assist both Dr Walter & Mr Harckwith with holistic palliative care at this painful and challenging time.

The Supreme Court of Appeal judgement overturning the Fabricius ruling in November 2016, made the point amongst many others that Adv Stranstham-Ford who applied for a ruling to allow euthanasia had benefitted from palliative care and towards the end of his life had expressed ambivalence about euthanasia for himself.

For media enquiries, contact:
Eric Watlington (HPCA Communications Officer)
(021) 531 0277

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Breaking news: New euthanasia case in South Gauteng High Court

sa_euthanasia2A new case to try legalise euthanasia has just been launched in the South Gauteng High Court. A doctor and her patient are jointly applying for euthanasia. The doctor herself has a form of blood cancer (multiple myeloma), while the patient has degeneration of the nerves (motor neuron disease). They seek to have physician assisted suicide and euthanasia declared legal by a court declaration that the common law prohibiting this is unconstitutional. Unlike the previous Stransham-Ford euthanasia case, this is not being motivated by the claim that they have a short time to live. It is thus not an urgent application and will be handled as a trial action, which may take some time to be heard. The doctor & patient apparently both wish to commit suicide. Since the doctor could easily access such medication, there is not much the law could do to stop the two of them having a suicide pact, but it seems they want to use their case to change the law.

Court papers describe their disease symptoms as ‘torturing symptoms’. This would indicate they possibly intend to argue on the basis of the Bill of Rights 12 1(d), which prohibits torture. This argument was already tried and not accepted by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2016. The Oxford Dictionary defines torture as “The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.” https://goo.gl/pNz1Xp. Disease pain is not being inflicted by any person. It is not as a punishment or to force anyone to do anything. These disease symptoms, while unpleasant can be mitigated by palliative care and there are many other diseases with worse symptoms.

This is a much less extreme case than that of Stransham-Ford, and if accepted, would leave a door open for assisted suicide and euthanasia for a very wide range of medical conditions. The process of dying almost always involves some pain and discomfort. It would likely lead either immediately or incrementally to euthanasia and assisted suicide effectively ‘on demand’ as in Belgium. It would also leave multiple other people with terminally ill, disabled and elderly people open to pressure to commit suicide or it being done without their consent, as is already being experienced in places where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide have been legalised. Bringing this case is an attempt to abuse the court. As the Minister of Health has stated, the constitution has no right to die, and if that was in any doubt that was confirmed by the court last year, which confirmed any proposals to change the law should be dealt with by parliament. This case should be dismissed. The applicants are apparently hoping to find another activist judge who will abuse his powers like the previous lower court judge Fabricius (see why the judge was wrong at https://goo.gl/gBcK9T).

[This is breaking news – not yet been reported anywhere else in the news media.]

Please come so you can be equipped to join the debate and defend human life.


Euthanasia: How would you be affected?

Mon 18th Sept Dumo Baqwa 13:00, UCT Medical Campus .
‘Healthworkers perspective’- Dr Allan Donkin (GP) or watch talk on Youtube: https://goo.gl/f1iNwA
‘Political, legal & Bible arguments’ – Philip Rosenthal (ChristianView Network) (The venue is just inside the main entrance).

Tue 19th Sept 1pm Leslie Social Sciences Building 1B, UCT Upper Campus .
‘Answering philosophical arguments’ – Tom Angier PhD: Lecturer, UCT Dept Philosophy .
‘Political, legal, & Bible arguments’ – Philip Rosenthal (ChristianView

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Breaking news: Supreme Court of Appeal says Fabricius was wrong on Euthanasia

BREAKING NEWS: 6 December 2016 the Supreme Court of Appeal said that Judge Fabricius was wrong in his 2015 judgement authorising Robert Stransham-Ford to have assisted sucide/euthanasia.

The court confirmed this is really a matter for elected parliament and not judges to decide. The decision was made in haste and did not properly consider South African law, the international context, our social values or the impact on the right to life. The medical information provided to the court was flawed and contradicted the real medical records, which were withheld until a court order was issued. The case was manipulated by the euthanasia lobby group, its lawyers and the estate, and the medical records indicate Stransham-Ford was actually asking if he could back out of euthanasia/assisted suicide.

The court judgment used many of the same reasons which we wrote in our article ‘Why judge Fabricius was wrong’:

* The separation of powers requires that parliament as representatives of the country as a whole should decide any changes on the law rather than requiring judges to decide.
* The applicant died before the ruling was given. Circumstantial evidence seems to indicate this information may have been deliberately withheld from the court.
* Judge Fabricius ruling was decided in haste (one day) on a matter of national importance, an urgency apparently manufactured on an individual case by the lobby group Dignity SA.
* The applicants attorneys had refused to provide the opposing friend of the court legal teams with information they needed to respond.
* The South African situation is different to the juristictions where euthanasia is legal, which argues against foreign cases being used as precedent. We have different social values, a different socio-economic and policing situation.
* The applicants affidavit was factually and medically doubtful on many points.
* The organisation Dignity SA was publicly raising funds to pay for the court case, but the application insisted it was just on behalf of the individual.
* The hasty Fabricius judgment did not properly consider South African law or international precedent cases.
* Judge Fabricus was wrong to assume that the common law on murder needed to change to accommodate assisted suicide and euthanasia.
* The court needs to consider whether its decision would undermine the foundational value of the right to life or be supportive of it.

Further reasons emerged from the judgment, which we were not aware of:
* The picture of Mr Stransham-Ford’s final illness as depicted in the legal affidavits bore little resemblence to reality as found in his medical records.
* The psychologist who declared the applicant Robert Stransham-Ford to be psychologically fit and his desire to apply for suicide, did not provide reasoning on how the conclusion was reached and previously lived in the same street as him, which raises questions of independence.
* The applicants doctors medical records indicate he was wavering in his desire for suicide/euthanasia and asked his doctor if he could change his mind and that his real medical situation was very different to that described in the affidavits. The estate of Stransham-Ford had refused to release these medical records until a court order was issued for them. [Our comment on this is that it is very normal for people to waver in their desire for suicide, but suicide is irreversible, and this is a strong argument against legalising suicide.]

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, at Wits submitted argument to the court that euthanasia and assisted suicide were working well overseas. The Health Professions Council of the State and the State submitted detailed evidence rebutting these claims and giving evidence of numerous abuses and problems overseas. The court provisionally accepted this evidence but after reviewing it, decided that it was too complex and detailed to sift through or decide on. Possibly the same rebutting evidence may be used again in future on another case.

One point in the judgement which we at Euthanasia Exposed are not happy about is a single sentence in the conclusion that can be interpreted to open the possibility of the court considering another case to legalise euthanasia/assisted suicide – something that logically conflicts with all its other arguments especially that the decision is really an issue for parliament and not judges. If another case comes, then the battle will continue. The euthanasia lobby have no chance success in the government or parliament, having been defeated before. With the body of evidence collected against euthanasia, ready for any future case, their chances of success are reduced.

Philip Rosenthal

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Protest outside Supreme Court of Appeal 4 Nov 2016

A group of about 40 protesters from Euthanasia Exposed and Free State Pro-life Network protested against euthanasia at the Supreme Court of Appeal, led by doctor Faan Oosthuizen.

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Supreme Court of Appeal hearing on 4th November 2016

The Supreme Court of Appeal will hear argument for the appeal of the Stransham-Ford euthanasia case on 4th November 2016. If you live in the Bloemfontein area, please go along to the Court to pray, protest and listen.

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