Start main page content

CALS joins landmark case on assisted dying

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The High Court today admitted CALS as a friend of the court in a matter brought by two terminally ill individuals against the Minister of Health and Others

On Monday 10 June, the Johannesburg High Court admitted the Centre for Applied Legal Studies as a friend of the court in a matter brought by two terminally ill individuals against the Minister of Health and others. Dr Sue Walter and Mr Dieter Harck first approached the Court in August 2017 requesting that they be allowed to choose to end their lives with the assistance of a willing doctor. They argue that physician assisted dying should not be criminalised or treated as unprofessional conduct.

CALS recognises that this case raises important constitutional issues around the rights to human dignity, life, health and bodily autonomy. We seek to assist the Court by arguing that health care services should include giving terminally ill adults a choice over when and how they wish to end their lives. It is our strong belief that the option of assisted dying should in no way replace access to high quality palliative care, but rather has an important role to play in complementing and extending it.

We also hope to assist further by presenting evidence by experts from Canada, the Netherlands and the state of Oregon in the United States where assisted dying is legal. These specialists are well-placed to outline the policies and checks and balances in place in these areas and provide their first hand experiences in implementing them. They are also able to speak more generally to the evolution of medical ethics and the nature of terminal illnesses and end of life care generally.

“Denying access to assisted dying is an unjustifiable limitation on the right to health,” says Vuyolethu Mntonintshi. “Instead, the law should recognise and respond to the needs of those with a terminal illness who wish to end their suffering and put in place regulations that ensure vulnerable individuals are protected.”

“Everyone has a right to dignity,” says Sheena Swemmer. “If we respect that dignity, we should respect a person’s choice to end their lives when and how they choose, in a way that they deem dignified.”

Read our application to be admitted as amicus curiae here

For inquiries, please contact: