First evidence heard in Gauteng High Court 'right to die' case

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What he fears most is not being able to die when the time comes. A Pretoria News report says this was the evidence of Diethelm Harck (71), one of the applicants in the court challenge to have assisted suicide legalised in South Africa. Harck and his doctor, Suzanne Walter (47), a palliative care specialist, have approached the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) in a bid to direct the government to enact legislation which would allow for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

While the legal challenge will only be heard later this year, special arrangements were made for Harck and Walter to give their evidence this week. Both suffer from life-threatening illnesses and are not sure whether they would be able to testify once the case started. Their evidence is being presented virtually this week via a commission set up for this under retired Judge CJ Claassen.

Both wish to end their lives when they feel they cannot handle their illnesses anymore. They also want to pave the way for other South Africans to be able to do the same.

Walter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017, and Harck with motor neuron disease in 2013.

Harck was the first to take the stand (virtually, from his home) and he testified with great difficulty, as his illness had affected his speech. His wife Lynne Grubb assisted him by repeating all his answers. Harck is well aware that there is no cure for motor neuron disease, and that things are due to become worse, until he cannot do anything for himself.

He told the commission that he and his family had discussed dying at length, and he has their blessing if he wanted to go the assisted suicide or euthanasia route. Harck said he wanted to live his life with dignity for as long as he could, and if he no longer could, he chose to end it.


Full Pretoria News report (Open access)



See also MedicalBrief archives:

Doctor and patient in new SA bid to legalise euthanasia


SA constitution ‘a basis’ for euthanasia — Human Rights Commission head


Euthanasia 44 years later: A case of déjà vu

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