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The Right to Life - Assisted Suicide and the Death Penalty
02 October 2017  | Andrea Buchanan
 
The South African Constitution includes the Bill of Rights, with the aim of protecting all people in South Africa. These include the right to use, enjoyment and disposal of property, the right to education, the right to security, and the right to equality, to name a few.

The fundamental rights which are the cornerstone on which our democracy has been founded underlie the rights in the Bill of Rights.

These rights are the right to human dignity, the right to equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.



The Right to Life

The right to life does not apply in isolation; it is grouped with the right to human dignity. This means that the right to life entails more than mere existence, there is a quality of life which must be maintained.

The Right to Life – Why the Death Penalty was abolished in South Africa

Shortly after the Constitution was enacted, the right to life was examined in the case of S v Makwanyane and Another (1995 (3) SA 391 (CC)).

In the Makwanyane case the court emphasised the intricacy of how human dignity was ‘fundamental to the new Constitution’ and more specifically the right to life.

The result of the Makwanyane case was that the death penalty was done away with in South Africa.
Assisted Suicide and the Right to Life.

More recently the case of Stransham-Ford v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Services and Others (2015 (4) SA 50 GP) came before the Gauteng High Court.

In this case Mr Stransham-Ford wished to be permitted to die with dignity by asking the court to legalise assisted suicide.

Fabricius J held that the Constitutional Court and Parliament should reconsider the current position in order for the right to human dignity to be effectively part of the South African democracy. The decision of the Gauteng High Court in Stransham-Ford v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Services and Others would allow a medical practitioner to either administer the lethal medicine or provide the lethal medicine to be self-administered without the medical practitioner being guilty of murder or culpable homicide.

This matter was taken on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, however Mr Stransham-Ford passed away before the court order was handed down in the Gauteng High Court.

Although Mr Stransham-Ford had passed away Fabricius J proceeded to hand down the judgment. Unfortunately, the cause of action had died with Mr Stransham-Ford, and as a result this was one of the grounds for the appeal.

The appeal was upheld, meaning that the High Court decision was set aside and the law regulating assisted suicide or euthanasia remains as it was before.

Greyvensteins Inc. – Attorneys South Africa

Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia has not been legalised in South Africa although there have been many discussions as to why the right to life means one is forced to exist and not given the choice to dispose of the right as one sees fit.