South African euthanasia activist convicted of murder

Sean Davison
Sean Davison became a campaigner for the right to assisted dying after he was arrested in New Zealand in 2010

South Africa’s leading pro-euthanasia activist is to serve three years under house arrest after he was found guilty of premeditated murder for helping three people to kill themselves.

Sean Davison was arrested in September last year in connection with the death of his friend in 2013, who had become a quadriplegic after a car accident.

He was given a sentence of eight years in total, five of which are suspended.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in South Africa.

New Zealand-born Davison is a forensic scientist and is the founder of right-to-die organisation, DignitySA.

Davison became a campaigner for the right to assisted dying after he was arrested in New Zealand in 2010 for helping his 85-year-old mother, who was ill with terminal cancer, to die four years earlier.

The 57-year-old served five months of house arrest in New Zealand after pleading guilty to assisted suicide, before returning home to his family in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu had given him a character reference in that case and wrote to the judge calling for leniency.

Davison had helped South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, in the late 1990s, to identify the remains of anti-apartheid activists.

He pleaded guilty at Western Cape High Court to helping his friend Anrich Burger in 2013 to end her life.

He also admitted to helping Justin Varian and Richard Holland kill themselves.

His sentence means that if he is convicted of a similar crime in the next five years, he will have to serve the full eight-year sentence.

On Wednesday, Davison left the court building in Cape Town escorted by his family without giving any comment to the journalists who were waiting outside.


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