House arrest for euthanasia activist Sean Davison

Sean Davison pictured in 2011 at court in Dunedin has now pleaded guilty to three cases of...
Sean Davison pictured in 2011 at court in Dunedin has now pleaded guilty to three cases of assisted suicide in South Africa. Photo: NZ Herald

Kiwi euthanasia champion Sean Davison has pleaded guilty to three charges of assisted suicide in a South African court.

Davison was convicted in New Zealand of assisting his terminally ill mother to die in Dunedin in 2006 after pleading guilty to counselling and procuring his mother's suicide.

The 57-year-old was sentenced to five months home detention in 2011 before leaving for South Africa the following year.

In the latest charges, Davison originally faced murder counts, but instead pleaded guilty to assisted suicide in the Western Cape High Court and was given an eight-year sentence, suspended for five years.

It means the president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies will need to spend three years under house arrest. If he commits a similar crime in the next five years, he will be jailed for the full eight years.

Davison pleaded guilty to giving a lethal dose of medication in 2013 to his 43-year-old friend Anrich Burger, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident.

His second plea related to causing death by asphyxiation to Justin Varian in 2015, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease four years earlier and unable to move without help.

Five days before his death Varian reported that he was not in physical pain, but that loneliness and a sense of isolation contributed to his desire to die.

The third charge was that he administered a lethal dose of drugs to Richard Holland (32) in 2015. Three years earlier, Holland suffered a brain injury after being knocked off his bike and was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome.

In 2016 he became president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, which supports euthanasia and assisted suicide for adults with incurable illnesses.

At a speech at the federation's conference in 2014, Davison said "not all quadriplegics want to die, but those who do want to, should have the option".

Renée Joubert, the executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ said Davison's actions suggested advocates of euthanasia wanted it to be available to a much wider group of people than just the terminally ill.

This worried Joubert.

"Politicians who don't want euthanasia to be available to people with disabilities, mental illness, and others who may have decades to live, need to vote against the End of Life Choice Bill on June 26," she said.

The controversial euthanasia bill brought by ACT leader David Seymour has received around 38,000 public submissions.

Seymour recommends the bill include a binding referendum at the next election, limiting eligibility to the terminally ill, clarifying that access cannot be by reason of mental health conditions and disability only, and incorporating the Access to Palliative Care Bill sponsored by National MP Maggie Barry.