Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



S.A. professor released after serving sentence for role in assisted suicide cases

The campaigner for the legalisation of euthanasia in South Africa, convicted of premeditated murders, was released Monday after three years of house arrest.   -  
Copyright © africanews
Cleared AFP

South Africa

South African microbiologist Sean Davison regained his freedom Monday after serving 3 years of house arrest for premeditated murder.

He was convicted for assisting three people to commit suicide, a quadriplegic friend, a man with motor-neuron disease and a paralysed man. In another case, he also helped his mother end her life.

As Davison marked his release by giving a press conference on the steps of the Cape Town High Court, he said he "did not regret what [he] did":  "I helped my mother to die out of compassion and I helped the three men to die in Cape Town out of compassion. Compassion is compassion. Why should the compassion for my mother be any different from the compassion I felt for these men. I did not cross the line, there was no line to cross."

The pro-euthanasia campaigner was sentenced in 2019 to eight years under house arrest, five of which were suspended. In 2011, Davison faced a similar conviction in New Zealand, his country of birth. There he served a five-month house arrest for helping his 85-year-old mother commit suicide in the South Island city of Dunedin in 2006. The judge then said Davison's action was not motivated by personal gain.

Medically-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia are illegal in South Africa. In 2016, the country's Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that granted a man the right to a medically assisted death. Davison who's 59 hopes the law will change.

"While I've been on house arrest, a number of countries changed the law, including New Zealand. All of the states in Australia have now changed the law. And recently we had Spain and other states in the United States. There is a general move around the world for a law change. And my issue has highlighted it again in South Africa. And hopefully, the politicians are going to sit up and listen and also feel the mood of the country."

'More determined'

In recent years high-profile figures in South Africa have made the same call as Davison. Near the end of his life and on his 85th birthday, Desmond Tutu went against the teaching of his fellow Anglican church clerics to publicly supported the assisted suicide campaign espicially for "those suffering unbearably" .The microbiologist paid tribute to the late Archbishop. "As for bishop Desmond Tutu was a good friend to me, and very supportive of me throughout my journey through the court, starting in New Zealand when I was arrested for my mother's death and it continued in South Africa, when I was first arrested and charged with murder. The very next day, he came out in the media in support without even knowing the circumstances, because he trusted me and he knew, he gaged what had happened. His loss is a voice in the campaign, is a great loss to the campaign because when Desmond Tutu spoke, the world listened."

Davison founded right-to-die charity Dignity SA. In 2018, the African Region of the World Medical Association rejected euthanasia calling instead for the strenghtening of Palliative Care. for terminal patients across the continent.

View more