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South African Journal of Bioethics and Law

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Legalising physician-assisted suicide in South Africa: Should it even be considered?

R.K. Jacobs

Abstract


For many years, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have been topics that no one dared to mention. However, over the past few decades, the subject has emerged as a very pertinent issue around the world, for a number of reasons – so much so that these life-ending practices have already been legalised or decriminalised in some developed countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and within certain states of the USA. In the states and countries where the practices have been legalised, or at least decriminalised, the effects of the legalisation have been relatively well documented. On the other hand, in countries like South Africa (SA), where they are illegal, whether or not they should be legalised (taking into consideration all the associated benefits and consequences) should be discussed, and a consensus reached, sooner rather than later. A consensus regarding the feasibility of legalising euthanasia and/or PAS in SA is needed because these practices (or mere requests for them) are becoming increasingly common, especially among people with terminal illnesses. Furthermore, the relative ease with which patients who desperately seek to end their life through either of the aforementioned methods, and are able to access them – by applying for them in countries where the pertinent laws and regulations are adjudged to be more liberal – is alarming. This highlights the importance and need for each country to set clear laws or parameters (and regulations, where applicable) that relate to these life-ending practices.




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