A South African court on April 30 granted a terminally-ill man the right to end his life in a landmark ruling that could pave the way for assisted suicide legislation. The High Court in Pretoria allowed for 65-year-old Robin Stransham-Ford to have a doctor help him end his life, and for the doctor to be protected from prosecution.
Medically-assisted suicide remains illegal in South Africa, but there have been growing calls for it to be legalized. Judge Hans Fabricius said in his ruling that Stransham-Ford was entitled "to end his life, either by administration of a lethal agent or by providing the applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself."
The ruling was hailed by Dignity SA, an organisation that lobbies for assisted suicide legislation. It said it expected the judge's decision to "set in motion the process of legalising assisted dying in South Africa."
The court heard that Stransham-Ford, a retired advocate suffering from terminal prostate cancer, had a life expectancy of only a few weeks.
Assisted suicide is illegal in many parts of the world. Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe that allows doctors help patients end their lives. In February, Canada's supreme court lifted a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for mentally competent adults suffering from an incurable disease.
A South African professor, Sean Davison, was in 2010 found guilty by a New Zealand court of assisting his cancer-striken mother take her own life by giving her a lethal dose of morphine.
The suicide occurred in New Zealand, where Davison was leaving. He was placed under house arrest for five months.