Jon Abbott’s Dearjon Letter below (written on 24 Fedruary 2011) is particularly relevent in the light of the arrival home today, Wed 2 May, of Professor Sean Davison, a Cape Town microbiologist who assisted his 85 year old mother suffering from terminal cancer to ‘slip away’ after she ‘had been on a hunger strike for 5 weeks. Professor Davison has been under house arrest in Dunedin in New Zealand for the last 5 months.
Euthanasia is outlawed in both South Africa and New Zealand.
Before leaving New Zealand Professor Davison was one of 5 participants in an open public forum discussing the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide, organised by the University of Otago’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues.
Wishing Professor Davison and his family a warm and wonderful re-union,
Dear Legislators everywhere,
If they were one of our pets there would be no problem. We would have them humanely put down with a lethal injection. But in most countries we are not yet mature and honest enough to be able to do the same thing to people who are crying out to be put down.
Shouldn’t there be a universal law prohibiting cruelty to people by prolonging life when it has effectively ceased to exist?
Sean Davison has highlighted the problem. This South African based Professor is campaigning for a change in the law to allow voluntary euthanasia after he was charged with attempted murder in New Zealand for giving his cancer-ridden, 85 year old mother a lethal dose of morphine. Euthanasia is a crime in both New Zealand and South Africa.
The ridiculous case that is a complete waste of tax payer’s money is based on a leaked admission he made in a draft of his book Before We say Goodbye. If the Professor, who did what he did out of love, was not so honest he could just say that what he wrote was fiction. Then how would the authorities ever be able to prove their case?
Our friend Dave, who is in his seventies, has been battling cancer on and off for the last few years but now it has finally won. Bedridden, with a perfectly well functioning brain, he has been moved from two hospices already and he is now on to his third.
A hospice for the terminaly ill is where they expect you to die within a very short time of perhaps a week or two. So, as they are not allowed to help you on your way, you might survive longer than expected and then you have to move. It’s not for long term stays.
So that’s why Dave has been shunted from one place to another when all he wants to do is DIE.
My wife visited him just before his latest move and he told her I hope they kill me this time. She held his hand and kissed him goodbye.
Tragically they won’t kill him. He’ll have to do that all by himself unless of course he finds someone as brave as Professor Davison.
Sheelah, my mother-in-law, was in much the same situation as Davison’s mother. For something like two years before she eventually died in her eighties she often asked my wife to help her die. Apart from her health her dignity had gone completely.
She was a grown-up whose daughter had to tend to her as if she was a tiny baby. Could anything be more humiliating especially as fate had not been kind enough to destroy her brain in the same way that it had crippled the rest of her body?
A lot of people might think that another of our friends was far more fortunate than Dave. Out of the blue her cancer was diagnosed as being so far gone that nothing further could be done other than token chemotherapy.
From the time she was diagnosed with the Big C to when she died 62 year old Maree lasted just eight weeks. It was very sad and a great shock to her relatives and friends but would it have been better if she had lingered on for months, if not years, pleading to be put out of her misery?
When my wife and I last saw her she gave us a box of chocolates. And after supper one evening we ate the last two.
The following morning we were told that Maree had died in hospital that night a 1000 miles away. It was uncanny. Who knows it could have been exactly when we finished the last chocolate that Maree’s life finally ebbed away.
She had been on a respirator and they had turned it off to see if she could breath on her own. You could say it was medically, sanctioned euthanasia. While the lawmakers hum and haw about legalising euthanasia for all of us doctors continue to legitimately do the compassionate thing.
But if I was to crush 10 times the prescribed dose of pills and hand them with a glass of water to my mother who had been pleading with me for months to die I would be breaking the law.
People can’t even decide on their own destiny, but doctors who know nothing about them other than their medical condition are empowered to make life and death decisions for them. Does that make any sense?
Legalising voluntary euthanasia is definitely the way to go, but a lot of people are so worried that this might be abused that they believe we dare not try it. But if that approach was adopted with everything there would be no progress because whatever you do there’s always a section of humanity who will try and spoil it.
LET’S OUTLAW CRUELTY TO THE DYING ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Jon, who hopes they get it right before he finds himself in that unenviable position.
Buy my book ‘Where have all the childre gone?’ on Amazon.com It’s a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.
For more about Jon Abbott see http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/04/jon-abbot-author-of-where-have-all-the-children-gone/
Professor Sean Davison, interviewed by John Maytham on Cape Talk said that today, being re-united with his family, is the “happiest day “ of his life. “Being at home is freedom.”
His separation from his wife and sons was the worst aspect of his being under house arrest. At his cottage in Dunedin he was able to speak to his wife on Skype, hearing his young sons in the background, but was not able to see them because of the bad reception. His youngest son, turning 2 tomorrow, did not recognize him when he arrived home.
To celebrate his freedom he is climbing Table Mountain this afternoon with his dog.
“I have done my time and stood my ground and made the point that it should not be a crime to help someone to die who has requested it,” said Professor Davison. Since launching Dignity South Africa with the aim of having amended current legislation in South Africa dealing with euthanasia, he has heard “terrible stories” from people who have had to deal with the painful deaths of family members. “Current laws on euthanasia do not reflect the beliefs of South Africans,” he said.
Professor Davison will be back at his post at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Monday. He has been assured that the university will continue to encourage the debate on euthanasia.