Euthanasia advocate Prof Sean Davison takes part in a
passionate public discussion about euthanasia and assisted
suicide in Dunedin last night. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Labour Party list MP Maryan Street told a packed public
meeting yesterday her proposed "end of life choices" private
member's Bill would avoid the "meaningless prosecution" of
people like Prof Sean Davison.
Prof Davison, a South African-based scientist, was convicted
in October of aiding the death of his 85-year-old
terminally-ill mother, Dunedin doctor Patricia Davison, in
2006, after a trial that sparked debate on voluntary
euthanasia in New Zealand and South Africa.
Earlier this week, he completed five months' home detention
to which he had been sentenced after admitting a charge he
"counselled and procured" his mother to commit suicide.
Ms Street and Prof Davison were among panellists who last
night addressed more than 300 people at an open public form
in Dunedin, which focused on "Euthanasia and Assisted
Suicide: A Discussion We Need to Have".
Her proposed Bill will include protective measures, including
assessments by two physicians, to prevent any abuse of
terminally ill patients' wish to have their lives ended, she
Prof Davison, a New Zealander who will return to South Africa
this week, told those at the meeting it was "a great pleasure
to be here but an even greater pleasure to be a free man".
With the ending of his home detention, he had been having a
"dramatic and traumatic" time, and he emphasised his love for
Dunedin and its people.
His mother, who had chosen to end her days at her Broad Bay,
Dunedin, home had been facing a "dreadful, dreadful
situation", after remaining alive despite refusing all food
for many weeks.
"I believe any humane person would have done exactly the same
thing [I had done]," he said.
John Kleinsman, director of the Wellington-based Nathaniel
Centre, the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre, warned
about inequalities in access to high quality palliative care
for the terminally ill, and highlighted risks of increased
Any debate about legalised euthanasia was premature until
genuine equality of medical care had been achieved, he said.
Otago theology and religion doctoral student Thomas
Noakes-Duncan drew attention to the wider negative
implications of legalising euthanasia.
Panellist Prof Grant Gillett, of the Otago Centre for
Bioethics, warned of the dangers of a doctor becoming
"isolated" or "drawn into the circle of despair" involving a
terminally ill patient.
"We can make sure that death does not happen in a way that a
person would hate it to," he said.
Associate Prof Colin Gavaghan, a specialist in medical law
and ethics, also explained the legal ramifications.
The two-hour forum, organised by the University of Otago's
Centre for Theology and Public Issues, was chaired by Prof
Paul Trebilco, of the Otago department of theology and