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CALS to present evidence on assisted dying

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The High Court today granted CALS leave to present evidence supporting the recognition of the right to die with dignity

On Friday 22 January, the Johannesburg High Court granted an application by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) to present expert evidence in a landmark case on assisted dying. CALS was previously admitted as a friend of the court in the matter brought by two individuals with terminal illnesses seeking to end their lives with the assistance of a doctor. CALS supports the right to die with dignity.

CALS welcomes today’s ruling by Judge Raylene Keightley of the High Court in Johannesburg, granting our application to present evidence in a case on assisted dying. The matter was first brought by two individuals with terminal illnesses, Dr Sue Walter and Mr Dieter Harck, in August 2017 against the Minister of Health and others. They approached the Court to ask that they be allowed to choose to end their lives with the assistance of a willing doctor, arguing that physician-assisted dying should not be criminalised or treated as unprofessional conduct. CALS is acting as a friend of the court in the matter.

We recognise 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 adults with terminal illnesses a choice over when and how they wish to end their lives. We intend to present 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.

Judge Keightley today agreed that it would be in the interests of justice to grant our application and have a plurality of views to assist the court in determining these difficult issues.

Read our full amicus application here.

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