n South African Medical Journal - Doctor-assisted suicide : what is the present legal position in South Africa? : forum - medicine and the law

Volume 105, Issue 7
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



In the recent case of Stransham-Ford v. the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the North Gauteng High Court held that a terminally ill patient who was experiencing intractable suffering was entitled to commit suicide with the assistance of his doctor and that the doctor's conduct would not be unlawful. The court was careful to state that it was not making a general rule about doctor-assisted suicide. The latter should be left to the Parliament, the Constitutional Court and 'future courts'. The judge dealt specifically with the facts of the case at hand. In order to understand the basis of the decision it is necessary to consider: (i) the facts of the case; (ii) the question of causation; (iii) the paradox of 'passive' and 'active' euthanasia; (iv) the test for unlawfulness in euthanasia cases; and (v) the meaning of doctor-assisted suicide. It is also necessary to clarify the present legal position regarding doctor-assisted suicide.

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