14 July 2014

South Africa: The Right to Die - Archbishop Tutu Provides Guidance On the Last Medical, Legal and Ethical Frontier


In 1998 Nelson Mandela requested the South African Law Commission to present to government a proposal on assisted dying. Report 86, titled "Euthanasia and the artificial preservation of life" and which included a Draft Bill, the End of Life Decisions Act 1999, has since been quietly lost in the machinery.

This weekend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, regarded as one of the world's most imminent religious leaders, provided groundbreaking ethical and moral leadership, announcing he backed the right of the terminally ill to choose to end their lives.

It is poignant that as Nelson Mandela lay in a "permanent vegetative state" towards the end of his life in June last year, doctors advised his family to turn off his life support machines. It was the ever-progressive and forward-thinking Mandela who had understood the urgency of end-of-life decisions and who in 1998 mandated the Law Commission, chaired then by the late Chief Justice, Ismail Mahomed, to compile the report and draft legislation on the issue.

As Mandela lay on his deathbed, his anguished family clearly grappled with the traumatic decision about what to do. The "Certificate of Urgency", recommending that life support be switched off, formed part of a...

South Africa

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