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Assisted suicide ruling could result in law change

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If the State’s appeal against the High Court in Pretoria’s ruling allowing a terminally ill cancer patient to commit suicide with a doctor’s help fails, Parliament will have to change legislation to accommodate this, an advocate said on Thursday.

If the Supreme Court of Appeal says the ruling by Judge Hans Fabricius can stand, it could go to the Constitutional Court, said Advocate Elton Hart, of the University of Johannesburg’s Law Clinic.

Justice ministry spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said they would appeal the ruling as it had far-reaching implications for the powers of the National Prosecuting Authority.

If the highest court in the land rejects the appeal, new legislation will have to be enacted to regulate assisted dying.

“The State then has to bring new legislation into play to ensure that these things are not taken lightly,” Hart said.

He was responding to Fabricius’s order that Robin Stransham-Ford, 65, can commit suicide with a doctor’s help.

Stransham-Ford died earlier on Thursday.

The ruling ensures that the doctor who helps him die cannot be prosecuted or have disciplinary proceedings brought against him.

Council for the justice minister, Lesego Montsho, SC, had argued against Stransham-Ford’s application on the grounds that, unlike in a country like the Netherlands, there was no legislative
framework to deal with the matter.

Hart said it was the role of judges not only to interpret the law, but also develop common law, while keeping the Constitution in mind.

Mhaga could not immediately be reached to determine if the appeal would still go ahead. News24


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