The Last Waltz: Love, Death & Betrayal, written by Sean Davison and edited by Elaine Feuer, is the story of an extraordinary love between a terminally-ill mother and son, and how their informed decisions lead to unforeseen consequences: A sister betrays her brother; a son is charged with murder; Archbishop Desmond Tutu requests bail; igniting a public debate about voluntary euthanasia and the right to die.
I am feeling so much pain as I watch Mum slowly fading away. I wonder if this will have any lasting effect on me; I don’t think so as I am emotionally strong, but it is very stressful. She just lies in bed all day waiting to die. It breaks my heart.
I don’t want my Mum to suffer, so I must let her go. It is just so instinctive to try to hold on to someone you love as long as possible, but by doing that I am prolonging her suffering. Sometimes I feel she is holding on only because I am not letting her go. She is still giving me so much pleasure. Every time I am with her she gives me these beautiful, kind smiles. Today I asked her why she can smile so easily when she is suffering so much. She replied, “They are smiles for you.”
It is becoming very difﬁcult for Mum to walk to the toilet and I now have to escort her. She told me that she wouldn’t need to go to the toilet during the night. However, as it turned out, at 4:30am I was woken by the sound of her dragging herself to the toilet on her own. This was no ballet performance; she was clinging desperately to each wall, trying to pull her frail body along. She had already made it past my bedroom door before I came and escorted her. She probably would have made it on her own, but it was a huge effort, and the potential for falling was high.
I am shocked at how frail Mum has become now. This is particularly noticeable when she tries to stand or walk. Her trips to the toilet symbolize her loss of independence more than anything else, and are embarrassing for her. I have managed, however, to turn these trips into a playful ritual. When she needs to go I ask her if I can have the pleasure of a dance. I then lift her up so that she is standing only lightly on her own legs and announce which ballroom dance it will be. We then move together, in time to a fox trot, tango or waltz. When we get to the turn in the hallway, I lead her through a spin turn. She appreciates the fact that I take the dance timing seriously, not making a mockery of the circumstances. She taught me to waltz when I was a small boy; it is time to return the favor.
The Last Waltz
Love, Death & Betrayal
By Sean Davison
July 4, 2019 Update: Sean Davison has been sentenced to three years of House Arrest for assisting in the suicides of three men, in excruciating pain, to gently leave this life.
About The Author
Sean Davison has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and is a Professor of Biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. He oversees the DNA Forensics Laboratory and has initiated a project to prove the innocence of people wrongfully convicted of crimes, by using DNA testing that was not used at the time of their conviction. Sean is on the Board of the World Federation of Right To Die Societies, and the Director of Dignity South Africa.
Photo taken in front of their mother's casket.
In New Zealand, two months before Pat's death.
Photo taken in front of their mother's casket.
Blue Danube Blog June 2, 2019 Elaine Feuer
Sean Davison's Last Waltz: South Africa explicates three premeditated murder charges against the acclaimed euthanasia advocate, who assisted these men, in excruciating pain, to gently leave this life.
How can it be, in 2019, so many voices crying into the night, in unbearable pain, pleading for a good death, a peaceful death, a compassionate death. Professor Sean Davison, who was convicted in New Zealand of assisting in the suicide of his terminally-ill mother in 2011, has been charged in South Africa with three premeditated murders, each carrying a minimum life sentence. The prosecution has closed its investigation and the pre-trial is set to begin in the High Court on June 19th.
Sean has been a professor of biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape since 2004.
He has supervised their forensic DNA laboratory, working with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to identify the remains of anti-apartheid activists. Sean also designed a DNA kit to help identify suspects in gang rapes, a service that is provided for free to rape victims. As the founder of the right-to-die organization DignitySA, the professor was ecstatic when assisted dying legislation passed in S.A. in 2015. Unfortunately, the Appeals Court reversed that decision.
Here are the three men Professor Davison is accused of murdering:
1) ANRICH BURGER, a medical doctor, became a quadriplegic after a car accident in 2005. He suffered severe nerve pain in his legs and was unable to consume medication on his own.
2) JUSTIN VARIAN had a stroke in 2010; was diagnosed with motor neuron disease one year later; and remained bedridden and in excruciating pain.
3) RICHARD HOLLAND, a sportsman, had a bicycle accident in 2012 that resulted in severe brain injuries: the loss of motor functions; and an inability to communicate; leaving him in acute pain, with migraines and muscle spasticity.
Professor Davison was strategically targeted for arrest, just as he was leaving Cape Town to join his family and a new life in Australia. If Sean is found guilty, it will be impossible for him to avoid prison, regardless how much family members of the deceased support Sean personally. The S.A. government is adamant against legalizing euthanasia, and since the High Court judge is appointed by the government, it is highly unlikely that Sean will be found innocent, especially since there isn't a jury system in S.A. One judge will be deciding Sean's fate.
Who would trade places with Anrich Burger, Justin Varian, or Richard Holland? The fact that people, living in countries that prohibit assisted dying, are forced to endure a long and excruciating demise, is poignant and cruel.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Blue Danube
(February 8, 2015)
6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 15 ounces
eBook: ePUB MOBI PDF
File Size: 1459 KB
Print Length: 230 pages
Page Numbers Source
Simultaneous Device Usage:
Publisher: Elaine Feuer
First edition January 22, 2015
Pat Davison's Self-Portrait
Assisted Death became legal in South Africa on April 30, 2015.
It's High Court was inspired by Canada's Supreme Court Decision, to make aid in dying legal in February of 2015. South Africa's High Court Granted an Order to Allow Assisted Dying to Cancer Patient Robin Stransham-Ford, and the Decision was Made Just Hours before Robin Died from Natural Causes.
Sean Davison campaigned tirelessly to make assisted dying legal in South Africa: “I am overjoyed and relieved that common sense has prevailed. It is a wonderful decision because defining how we die is defining how we live. Robin wanted to leave an important legacy. He often commented on my situation with my mother, and he wished he had said something at the time and talked openly about how nonsensical the law was." Go to to learn more.
Had Robin lived, the High Court decision would have given him the option to administer a lethal drug himself, or with the assistance of a doctor. The legal criteria for voluntary euthanasia proposed in the bill are: 1) a person has to make the choice to die, freely, and on their own; 2) they have to be mentally competent; 3) a panel - independent of their family, has to assess their request.
Regrettably, on December 6, 2016, South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the High Court ruling, making assisted dying illegal once again, in South Africa.
A Moment to Reflect on the Passage of Assisted Dying in South Africa: by Professor Sean Davison
Yesterday was a momentous day in our country's history – thank you all for making it the success it was. There are many people who contributed greatly to making this success possible, but at this stage I wish to express our overwhelming gratitude to Robin's family and caregivers. Penelope, Rosanne and all the family gave Robin the incredible strength he needed to endure the suffering of the journey he chose.
When I visited Robin over Easter (3 weeks before the court case), he made it absolutely clear he was going to die on Wednesday 29th April, the day after the court hearing was originally scheduled.
The court case was delayed one day – what a difference a day makes. The delay probably had greater emotional and physical impact on Robin than we can even start to imagine (Penelope can probably attest to this). It was as if he had decided how long he could hang on for, and that extra day was a day too far.
Robin was suffering terribly in the weeks leading up to the court hearing. Although desperate to die he was literally clinging on to life for the sake of a positive ruling and the consequences this would have on a law change, and for others who may find themselves in his position. This was an extraordinary act of courage, and an extraordinary gift to our humanity.
We still await further legal clarity about the judge's ruling yesterday, especially in the context of Robin's untimely death. However regardless of what the judge may say, or the outcome of any appeals, nothing can rewrite yesterday's ground-breaking ruling – the high court ruled in favour of a terminally ill man to have a physician assisted death, even by lethal injection (something which is not permitted in Switzerland or the five USA states).
Although we can truly treasure this moment, this victory, our journey is far from over. DignitySA's single objective is to have a bill passed by parliament to allow for assisted dying. When you seek a law change you have to be prepared for the long haul - however yesterday's ruling has surely significantly shortened our journey.
Once the events of the past few days have settled we will need to regroup and strategise the way forward.
With much gratitude to you all,
Sean Davison, 1st of May 2015
South Africa's Appeals Court overturned this decision, making assisted dying illegal, once again, in South Africa