A court ruling which effectively legalised euthanasia has been overturned by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Last year, a terminally ill 65-year-old man won his case in the country’s High Court, allowing him to be euthanised or helped to commit suicide. He died of natural causes before the ruling was handed down.
The government appealed to the SCA and argued that the court ruling would have much wider implications.
The SCA judged that “the claim ceased to exist once the applicant died before the order could be granted”, saying that euthanasia remains “illegal and prosecutable”.
In a statement made after the SCA ruling, Justice spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said: “The Ministers of Justice and Minister of Health are relieved that the order was set aside given the far-reaching implications the judgment had on the constitutionally-entrenched right to life”.
He added that from an ethical point of view, doctors ‘take an oath to save and preserve life, not end it’.
In the UK last year, an assisted suicide Bill was rejected by MPs in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.
The result came following pressure from disabled rights groups, the medical profession, a number of charities and religious leaders.
Serious concerns had been raised that legalising assisted suicide, a form of euthanasia, would pressurise the sick, elderly and vulnerable into ending their lives for fear of being a burden.