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Western Cape
May 7 2012 8:16AM
 
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Rusana Philander

Prof Sean Davison, who returned to South Africa last week after spending five months under house arrest in New Zealand for assisting his cancer-stricken mother to die, will return to work at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

UWC spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongob said Davison would "return to UWC to continue his work and do what he does best". The professor has been away from his job for six months but he will continue his work at the forensic DNA lab in UWC's life sciences department.

"Before his detention, Davison and fellow research scientist Dr Eugenia D'Amato led pioneering DNA forensic research, isolating the genetic information in the Y-chromosome (present only in males) to allow identification of the perpetrator in multiple rape cases," said Tyhalibongob.

"Davison and his team developed a unique forensic kit, tested against South Africa's different and genetically diverse population groups, which is more accurate when dealing with local persons and situations than the kits found in Europe and America. "The kit has also been used to help identify human remains from the apartheid era," Tyhalibongob said.

Last week, Davison explained the circumstances that led to his controversial decision to help his mother, 85-year-old Patricia Ferguson, end her life with a lethal dose of morphine and his subsequent arrest in New Zealand.

"My mother had terminal cancer and took the courageous decision to go on a hunger strike and die. Tragically, it did not work.

"She asked for help and after deep thought, I helped her," said the professor, who is originally from New Zealand.

"Before I gave her the morphine I explained to her what it meant and her last words to me were: 'You are a wonderful son'." Davison said his trouble with the law started after he wrote a book about his experiences.

"My publisher wanted to remove this part (about helping his mother die)," said Davison. He said somehow the manuscript was leaked to the media and police.

"I did not think I would be arrested. I was horrified." Davison last week returned to his wife, Raine Pan, and their two children in Cape Town.

Davison has launched a petition through his organisation DignitySA, a pro-euthanasia organisation that believes terminally ill people should have the right to end their life, calling for a bill that will legalise such a choice.

"Euthanasia is an issue that needs to be talked about. Twenty years ago abortion was taboo. "I am proud that my university will be part of this debate.

This is a challenge to our whole humanity," said Davison. Prof Brian O'Connell, rector and vice-chancellor of the university, said: "The big question today is how we as humans respond to changes.

The big challenge now is how the university will be going forward engaging in this matter." Davison has been living in South Africa for the past 22 years and has been working at the UWC for the past 18 years.

rusanap@thenewage.co.za

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