The Health Professions Council (HPCSA) is opposing the latest bid to legalise euthanasia, claiming the applicants are exaggerating their illnesses. According to Rapport, the application by palliative care doctor Sue Walter (47) and her patient Dieter Harck (71) was set to be heard in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) this week, but will now in all probability be heard next week.
As reported in Legalbrief Today, Walter was diagnosed in February 2017 with multiple myeloma and Harck was diagnosed in 2013 with motor neuron disease. Both say they are suffering from ‘torturing symptoms’ and want the law to be developed to allow for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and physician-assisted euthanasia (PAE). According to Rapport, the HPCSA says in its opposing papers that multiple myeloma and motor neuron disease ‘may’ develop into a terminal phase, but neither of the applicants has reached that phase.
The HPCSA is also of the view that the terminal phase of an illness cannot be viewed as a burden or liability. ‘Suicide is not a right or benefit of the law within the meaning of section 9 of the Constitution,’ the HPCSA argues, and the ‘killing of a person is not a health service’. The statutory body says it will act against any doctor who assists a patient to end his or her life. A prohibition of PAS and PAE is necessary to protect the rights to equality, dignity, life and physical integrity of those who are old, terminally ill, or physically or mentally disabled, it argues.