Auckland-born euthanasia advocate Sean Davison has been ordered by a South African court to serve three years under house arrest after pleading guilty to assisted suicide.
The 58-year-old, who initially faced three charges of premedited murder at the Western Cape High Court, will serve another five years on probation following the house arrest. However, a conviction of a similar crime during that period could put him behind bars for the full eight years.
Davison was accused in court documents of engaging in euthanasia - not only assisted suicide - since he took the final actions that caused death.
Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, a group which opposes euthanasia and assisted dying in New Zealand, applauded the decision today.
"These facts demonstrate that it’s not necessary for a doctor to perform euthanasia or assisted suicide, which is one of the points made in the Doctors Say No open letter," she said.
The first charge against Davison was that he administered a lethal dose of medication in 2013 to his friend, 43-year-old Anrich Burger, who became a quadriplegic after a motor vehicle accident.
The second charge related to causing death by asphyxiation in 2015 to Justin Varian, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease four years earlier.
Five days before his death, Mr Varian reported that he wasn’t in physical pain but that loneliness and a sense of isolation contributed to his desire to die, Ms Joubert said.
The third charge was that he administered a lethal dose of drugs to 32-year-old Richard Holland in 2015. Three years earlier, Holland sustained a brain injury after being knocked off his bike and was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome.
In 2011, Davison was sentenced to five months' house arrest in Dunedin after pleading guilty to counselling and procuring the suicide by lethal overdose of his mother, Patricia Ferguson. Davison returned to South Africa in 2012.
In 2016, he became president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, the international organisation of which the New Zealand End of Life Choice Society (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), is a member.