Sean Davison pictured in 2011 at court in Dunedin charged with attempting to murder his terminally ill mother in 2006, has now pleaded guilty to three cases of assisted suicide in South Africa. Photo / Sharron  Bennett.

Sean Davison pictured in 2011 at court in Dunedin charged with attempting to murder his terminally ill mother in 2006, has now pleaded guilty to three cases of assisted suicide in South Africa. Photo / Sharron Bennett.

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TVNZ 1 NEWS: Kiwi man sentenced to 8-year suspended jail for assisted suicides of three disabled people in South Africa

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.


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.

At the Federation’s 2018 conference Davison advocated for euthanasia on the basis of mental suffering alone.

“The proposal to limit eligibility to terminal illness is arbitrary and unsustainable considering the fact that key euthanasia advocates such as Davison are calling for much wider criteria,” says Ms Joubert. “As has happened in Oregon and in the Netherlands, we expect the interpretation of an ‘assisted dying’ law to widen over time, to include more categories of people in the name of equality.”

“Nowadays in Oregon a person is considered “terminal with six months to live” if they are expected to die within six months without receiving medical treatment. Eligible conditions have included arthritis, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders.

“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 26 June,” Ms Joubert warns.
— Euthanasia-Free NZ Media Release

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