The word euthanasia means ‘good death’ and has remained one of the most contentious ethical dilemmas in medical practice around the world. The issue of assisted voluntary euthanasia was brought to the attention of the South African public with the judgment in Stransham-Ford v the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (2015), Case no. 27401/15. Judge Fabricius of the North Gauteng High Court found that terminally ill Robin Stransham (the applicant) had a constitutionally protected right to die with dignity. This case was opposed by the Minister of Health and the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The legal arguments of both sides centred on constitutional rights – in particular, the right to human dignity, the right to life and the right to control one’s body. Human dignity is a very nuanced concept that means different things to different people, but it is an attribute inherent in every human being that should be respected. In the judgment of this case, more weight was given to the right to dignity than to the right to life.
It then transpired that the applicant passed away a few hours before the judgment, and this was decisive in the subsequent appeal. The Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the judgment by the High Court, but there was no engagement with arguments for or against euthanasia. The Supreme Court’s decision was that there was no purpose in granting the order and that the High Court should not have adjudicated the matter after Mr Stransham-Ford’s death. The Supreme Court did leave the door open for similar future applications to the court, as it was also concluded that assisted suicide is not unlawful in all circumstances. Any future applications will have to be considered on the individual facts, within the context of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 108 of 1996, which protects the right to life and human dignity.
The debate about euthanasia made headlines again as reported in various South African newspapers during 2019 when Prof. Sean Davison was charged with three counts of murder. He received a suspended sentence of 8 years with house arrest and community service after a court-approved plea was reached in the Western Cape High Court. The compassionate motivation in assisting those people with a dignified death, their requests for his assistance in dying, supported by their relatives and his remorse were all considered as mitigating factors. This case came 44 years after a similar case in 1975 where Dr Hartman assisted the death of his 87-year-old father with terminal cancer. He also received a suspended prison sentence, and it is clear from the similarities between these two cases that there has not been any significant progress in the legal developments on euthanasia since 1975. Legislation on assisted suicide has previously been developed and proposed but not promulgated, and currently, it is still unlawful in South Africa.
As the Applied Research for Law Practitioners module is reaching a point of culmination, you are tasked to write a 12 — 15 page research proposal for an undergraduate mini dissertation.
The theme of the research is The Constitutionality of Euthanasia in South Africa.
[NB: This is not the title of the research, you must create your own title and research question, based on this topic.]
Answers to Above Questions on Research for Law
Title: The title that is considered for the given research is: An analysis of the constitutionality of Euthanasia in South Africa in promoting balancing life, dignity and autonomy.
Research Question: To find out the level at which the constitution of the Republic of South Africa is effective in protecting the rights of humans such as dignity, right to life and autonomy in respect to euthanasia.
Get completed answers on the questions above on research for law from the best South African experts of Student Life Saviour South Africa.
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