UJ seminar explores the legal issues of physician-assisted dying

Date: Aug 12, 2015 | News

​​​​​If a loved one suffers from constant pain or some other debilitating condition that no medical treatment can cure, would you assist by bringing about the inevitable, if they ask? What should weigh the heaviest, mercy or the law? The terminally ill have long sought assistance from physicians or family members to end their lives.

Andrew Konstant, a researcher at the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), a leading South African research centre within the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), raises the question whether constitutional norms such as autonomy and human dignity mean that a person should have a legal right to receive lawful assistance to end his life in circumstances of extreme suffering.
The End of Life debate has gained momentum in South Africa after the North Gauteng High Court ruled in May 2015 that a terminally ill cancer patient had the right to receive assistance in dying and that such assistance would not be unlawful.
How should the law be developed in this area, if at all? And who decides? These questions will be the focus of discussion at the University’s SAIFAC seminar on Friday, 14 August 2015. The hour-long seminar to be held at the SAIFAC Boardroom, Old Fort, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, is scheduled to start at 1pm.
Says Konstant: “The seminar will be led by Rt Hon. Lady Justice Arden, Judge on the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, who will expose some of the legal issues of physician-assisted dying and stimulate legal debate. The seminar will also explore the question of which institution, the courts or parliament, should decide on this issue. Are the conditions to be attached ones which the courts could satisfactorily devise or will the courts have to make decisions on a case by case basis? Finally, should there be a basic standard of palliative care, and does the right to such care also engage a person’s constitutional rights?”​
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