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Medics & legal experts lock heads over euthanasia

Medical professionals have described the ruling as a contravention of the health professions act.

As the ethical debate around assisted suicide in South Africa continues, legal experts and medical professionals have weighed in on a court ruling in favour of euthanasia. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the ethical debate around assisted suicide in South Africa continues, legal experts and medical professionals have weighed in on a court ruling in favour of euthanasia.

Yesterday, the High Court in Pretoria granted cancer patient Robin Stransham-Ford his application for suicide with the help of a doctor who would not face prosecution.

The 65-year-old died hours before he could benefit from the eventual ruling in his favour.

He had approached the court on Wednesday asking for an amendment to the law regarding assisted death without prosecution.

According to current law, doctors who help patients die could face jail time of up to 14 years.

The reasons behind the court's decision are expected to be released on Monday.

Medical professionals have described the ruling as a contravention of the health professions act which binds doctors to ethical standards.

Advocate Manny Witz says from a legal perspective the court's decision will have to be tested through an appeal.

"It's not easy because there is the religious side and humanity side. The judge made a brave decision but it will have to be tested on appeal."

Last year, Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill 29-year-old woman, took her life in November.

Maynard, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, announced plans to take medication to die when her pain became unbearable.

She became the face of a right to die movement called Dignity SA.