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On Assisted Dying Ruling By a South African Court

Professor Pierre de Vos weighs in on the debate about assisted dying in South Africa after a South African High Court ruled that a dying person is entitled to be assisted by a qualified medical doctor to end his or her life:

It is important to note that the ruling does not force any person to end his or her life or to assist anyone else to do so. It remains a personal choice. The judgment thus confirms that the criminal law (or, I would add, the ethical rules of the HPCSA [the Health Professions Council of South Africa]) cannot be used to enforce the moral, religious or ethical beliefs of some on everyone. However, this does not force those who hold such moral, religious or ethical beliefs to act in breach of their beliefs.

Moreover, if the Constitutional Court confirms the judgment it would be desirable for Parliament to pass legislation to establish a system with minimum safeguards in order to protect patients. In the absence of such legislation a patient would have to approach a court for permission to be legally assisted to die.

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