Friday, July 17, 2015

Assisted Suicide is not a private matter.

Paul Russell
This article was published on the HOPE Australia website on July 16.

By Paul Russell, the founder and director of HOPE Australia.

New Zealand born South African based euthanasia advocate Sean Davison is in the press again, once more seemingly stepping across the line into assisting in suicide.

In 2011, Davison was convicted in a New Zealand Court of assisting the suicide of his own mother in 2006, a matter that came to light in the review of a draft of Davison’s book, Before we say goodbye. Davison admitted in 2010 to crushing 18 morphine tablets and mixing it into a glass of water before handing it to his mother, who had cancer. He was committed to home detention for five months before returning to South Africa and founding a ‘right-to-die’ movement.

In September 2014, Davison admitted at the world ‘right-to-die’ conference in Chicago that he had assisted in the suicide death of a quadriplegic medical doctor in 2013.

Australia’s other ‘Dr Death,’ Rodney Syme, gave a talk at that event entitled: Challenging the Legal System – and getting away with it. Perhaps, Davison heeded Syme’s advice as, on that occasion, no charges were ever brought against him.

Only a few days before Davison made this revelation to his international cohort, on his Dignity SA [Dignity South Africa] twitter feed, Davison tweeted: 
“Dignity SA is committed to good palliative care. Assisted Dying (sic) is a last resort for a small % for whom palliative care is not enough.”
The doctor in question [Dr. Anrich Burge] was not terminally ill. So much for standards.

This week, according to South Africa’s IOL news online, an anonymous caller tipped off the Cape Times that Davison was about to assist in another suicide, this time of a person in hospice care, apparently in his own home.

When contacted by the Cape Times, Davison would neither confirm nor deny. However, he seemed to have effectively admitted that something was afoot by telling the press:
“Where did you get that information from? I cannot confirm or deny that. I can’t comment about (the patient). This is a private matter which should not be publicised in the media. 
“One should respect people’s right to die in a dignified manner. (The patient) has been suffering for a long time.”
Contacted again on Tuesday, Davison insisted on speaking only to the Cape Times editor, but his demand was declined and the news editor contacted him.
Asked if he would be involved in an assisted suicide on Tuesday, Davison said:
“I can’t comment on that. Who says there is a story here. He (the patient) doesn’t want this in the media. 
“This is a private matter. It is up to the patient if he wants this in the media. If you run this story, you are crossing the line.”
Davison may or may not have a point about privacy here; that ultimately would be a matter for the South African Press association. But, if true, it is Davison that has crossed the line, and a clear, bright line at that which prohibits assisting in suicide.

Department of Justice and Correctional Services spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga told the media that, 
‘if Davison was indeed assisting another person with suicide, he could be charged with murder’.
The unnamed source told the Cape Times that, 
“Davison would be using gas to end the patient’s life at 4pm on July 14 at a residence in Fresnaye.”
That little flag about the use of gas tells me that Davison knows that, so long as there is no evidence of him being at this person’s home at the time of death and no paper or email trail, he is not likely to see a charge raised against him.

Moreover, absent the call from the anonymous person, if the paraphernalia used to induce a hypoxic death is removed and if the gas of choice is nitrogen, there’s nothing to see. Absent an autopsy death would be assumed to have been from natural causes relating to the underlying condition. Even with an autopsy, there’s no ‘smoking gun’.

At this stage the welfare of the person in question is not known. But even if he does commit suicide and even if Davison assists, there remains another ‘if’ that Davison, it appears, may be relying on to avoid the dock. It’s called evidence, or, more precisely, the possible lack there of.

While having every sympathy for the person concerned, I hope that the anonymous caller will have averted this suicide.

Contrary to Davison’s assertion, this is a matter that should be discussed and should be reported in the interests of public safety.

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