Assisted suicide doc gets three years house arrest

Cape Times

Article by Francesca Villette

“I KNOW many people will be disappointed that I accepted a plea bargain and didn’t go to trial. If I’d done this, I may have been found not guilty, and thereby led to a law change. However, I was facing three life sentences in prison and the stakes were too high. I have three young children and my children want a father, not a martyr.”

So said assisted suicide advocate Professor Sean Davison, following the Western Cape High Court yesterday sentencing him to serve three years’ house arrest for the murders of Anrich Burger, Richard Holland, and Justin Varian.

Davison, 59, pleaded guilty to killing Burger in 2013 by administering a lethal dose of drugs.

Davison further admitted to killing Holland in 2015 in the same way.

On a third murder charge, Davison admitted to killing Varian by placing a helium-filled bag over his head and suffocating him.

Burger had became a quadriplegic following a car accident in 2005, while Holland had been a triathlete who represented South Africa internationally, before he was hit by a car while training for a competition. Varian had suffered from motor neuron disease.

The conditions of Davison’s house arrest allow him to leave home to go to work, church and the doctor.

Born in New Zealand, and known worldwide for helping his 85-yearold mother Pat to die by giving her 18 morphine tablets with water, Davison yesterday said the past nine months since his arrest had been a “harrowing journey”.

“I want to thank the thousands of people in South Africa and around the world who’ve sent messages of support and encouragement,” Davison told the Cape Times.

Davison is also the chairperson, executive committee member and co-founder of assisted dying organisation Dignity SA.

Professor Willem Landman, also an executive committee member and co-founder, yesterday welcomed the house arrest sentence, saying prison time would have been and “an inexcusable injustice”.

“Of course, a plea bargain has the unfortunate consequence that the merits of the case are not argued in court. However, the personal risk to Davison’s liberty was too great,” Landman said.