Hearing of witness testimony on assisted dying set to begin
- Lee-Anne Bruce
Next week, two individuals with terminal illnesses will begin testifying about why they want the right to die
From Monday 1 March, a retired judge of the High Court is set to begin hearing evidence from two individuals with terminal illnesses who wish to choose when and how to end their lives. Dr Sue Walter and Mr Dieter Harck are asking that they be allowed to die with the assistance of a willing doctor. CALS has entered the case as a friend of the court to support the right to die with dignity and to present expert evidence from jurisdictions where assisted dying is regulated in law.
An important case on assisted dying is currently before the High Court in Johannesburg. The matter was brought by two terminally ill individuals against the Minister of Health, the Health Professions Council of South Africa and others. Dr Sue Walter and Mr Dieter Harck approached the Court to ask that they be allowed to end their lives with the assistance of a willing doctor, arguing that assisted dying should not be criminalised or treated as professional misconduct. They further brought the matter in the public interest to ensure others might also be able to access assisted dying if they choose.
The matter takes the form of action proceedings, where evidence and facts are presented verbally in court during a civil trial. Proceedings in this matter are set to begin later this year, however Dr Walter and Mr Harck have been allowed to begin giving their testimony next week due to the severe and terminal nature of their illnesses. Their evidence will be heard by retired Judge Neels Claasen, who will be presiding as a ‘commission de bene esse’ for the witnesses who are ill and whose testimony the Court may be in danger of losing.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) has been admitted as a friend of the court in the matter, and earlier this year was further granted leave to present expert evidence. We hope to assist the Court on this important issue by providing evidence from specialists in bioethics, medicine and end of life care from the Netherlands, Canada and the state of Oregon in the U.S. where assisted dying is regulated in law. This evidence is set to be presented in court later this year.
Read our full amicus application here.
For inquiries, please contact:
- Sheena Swemmer at Sheena.Swemmer@wits.ac.za
- Vuyolethu Mntonintshi at Vuyolethu.Mntonintshi@wits.ac.za