Wits Alumnus Dr Sue Walter hosts a talk about fighting for the right of euthanasia or assisted death and ending the suffering of patients with incurable illnesses

Two years after being diagnosed with a bone cancer called multiple myeloma, Dr Sue Walter has made it her priority to fight for the right of people with incurable diseases to opt for assisted death.
Walter, a psychologist and medical alumnus from Wits, on Tuesday, April 10 said the legalisation of euthanasia, or assisted death, will allow terminally ill patients the choice to end their suffering.

Having previously worked as a palliative care specialist, Walter explained that she had seen the suffering of patients who would otherwise want to end their lives, but were barred by laws that prohibit the practice.

Euthanasia, or assisted dying, is illegal in South Africa, and Walter has already filed a case asking the court to allow patients access to it should they choose it, for people suffering from incurable illnesses. The case will be heard in the Johannesburg High Court after June this year.

“I’m hoping to gain that everybody who has a terminal illness is put at ease because they know that this will be available to them,” Walter told Wits Vuvuzela.“We had to do it through lawyers, so we have approached a body of lawyers who are helping us and Dignity SA is also coming on board with us,” Walter told Wits Vuvuzela.

She was speaking at the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at Wits Health Sciences Campus, where she emphasised the importance of euthanasia.

The discussion area was half filled with people from different professions, who seemed interested and involved with what Walter had to say.

She said that while she is pro-life, she is also pro-choice because of her own experiences as a terminally ill patient.

People with terminal illnesses, she said, should be allowed to request to end their lives, saying they often considered the costs and suffering when making such a decision.

“The risks outweigh the benefits in using medication because there are struggles that come with taking medication, so we’d rather stop it,” she said.

Head of the National Council Registry, Elvira Singh, who attended the session, said that from a personal point of view “I am pro-choice, I believe that patients have the right to die with dignity and if I were in a situation like that, I’d want to make that decision myself”.

Attendee Lesego Makgatho told Wits Vuvuzela, “I really enjoyed the session from the get-go. I was very intrigued and interested in the country’s stance on euthanasia, and we were talking about it even among all our peers”.

FEATURED IMAGES: Dr Sue Walter addressed an audience on the need for assisted death. Photo: Masechaba Kganyapa