A highly respected Cape Town professor charged with murder after helping his terminally ill mother to die in New Zealand has arrived back in South Africa this week after being granted permission by the courts to leave the country.
The forensic expert, Sean Davidson, says he does not regret feeding his 85-year-old mother a lethal dose of morphine after she pleaded with him to help her die. “What I did to help my mother at the end of her life I did for the love of my mother,” he said.
Like euthanasia pioneer Derek Humphry (who assisted in the death of his first wife), Davidson’s decision came to light as the result of a book he subsequently wrote. After writing Jean’s Way: A Love Story in 1978, Humpry went on to spearhead the right-to die movement in the USA. Although Davidson’s book, Before We Say Goodbye, was published last year, it is only through recent interviews and a return to New Zealand that the specifics of Davidson’s actions have come to light.
Sean Davidson is due to stand trial in June 2011 in Dunedin (the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand). But in what appear to be a completely precedented move, the court has allowed him to return to his home and university duties in South Africa before standing trial.
“I now see the importance of having control over one’s own death if one is faced with a terminal illness and the need to change the law to make this possible in certain circumstances,” he said. The situation may start shockwaves of concern and moves for legalisation in both New Zealand and South Africa.
Professor Sean Davison, 48, fed his ailing mother, Patricia (once a respected doctor and psychiatrist), a lethal cocktail of morphine after she tried to starve herself to death to end her suffering. Word of his arrest has jolted his colleagues at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, where his most recent research is aimed at helping local police to identify criminals through DNA analysis.
Euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand and two attempts at passing legislation on legalised euthanasia failed to get through Parliament. It is also illegal to ‘aid and abet suicide’ under Section 179 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961.
- Starvation is an unreliable method of suicide unless thoroughly researched and properly prepared for, as several high profile cases, relying on ill-advised encouragement, have shown.
- Extensive analysis of starvation as a method of dying and its pros and cons is examined in Five Last Acts 2nd edition.
Mercy killing accused – report in Long Walk Since Freedom
SA prof. arrested in New Zealand – Eyewitness News
Voluntary Euthanasia in NZ – Parliamentary Briefing
Professor who fights crime fed his mother a lethal cocktail – Times Live
Sean’s book – Before We Say Goodbye