Right-to-die activist and author Professor Sean Davison’s three-year house arrest came to an end on Monday June 20. Last Thursday, Exclusive Books at Cavendish Square, in Claremont, was packed as he launched his book, The Price of Mercy – A fight for the right to die with dignity.
Accompanied by his wife, Raine, and children, Finnian, 13, Flynn, 12, and Fia, 8, Professor Davison, of Pinelands, was in conversation with Professor Willem Landman, co-founder of Dignity SA, an NPO committed to legalising assisted dying.
He spoke about why he has no regrets about what he did.
Professor Davison, who was born in New Zealand and holds dual South African and New Zealand citizenship, first made headlines in 2010 when he was arrested and charged after he had helped his 85-year-old, terminally ill mother, Dr Patricia Ferguson, to die in 2006. He had left South Africa to care for his mother in New Zealand.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to the New Zealand High Court, vouching for Professor Davison’s character and pleading for him to be allowed to return to his family in South Africa until the date of his trial. The court agreed to this request, setting a legal precedent in New Zealand, due to the seriousness of the offence.
In September 2011, the trial took place, and Professor Davison accepted a plea-bargain agreement, pleading guilty to assisted suicide. Archbishop Tutu again wrote to the judge, pleading for a lenient sentence. She acknowledged that Archbishop Tutu’s request impressed her considerably and concluded that Professor Davison’s actions were driven by love and compassion. He was convicted of his mother’s assisted suicide and sentenced to five months’ house arrest in New Zealand.
He made headlines again in 2019 when he was convicted in a South African court on three counts of premeditated murder for assisting three bedridden or chronically ill friends to end their lives peacefully.
He was sentenced to three years house arrest during which he was barred from appearing in public or speaking to the media.