Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Penguin SA

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Sean Davison Launches After We Said Goodbye at The Book Lounge

Sean Davison

Sean Davison’s voice retains a gentle Kiwi lilt after 20 years of living in South Africa. His self-effacing and soft-spoken demeanour is consistent with an intensely private manner.

Raine and Sean DavisonAfter We Said GoodbyeHowever, over the past few years, the quiet Davison has been the subject of many media reports, following his trial in New Zealand for assisting his terminally ill mother’s suicide. Davison was charged after a chapter from his first memoir, Before We Say Goodbye, detailing his administering of a lethal dose of morphine to end his mother’s suffering, was leaked.

Questions about the right to a dignified death surfaced in all their paradoxical might at the launch of Davison’s second memoir, After We Said Goodbye, at The Book Lounge last week. The elemental questions you hope you will never have to face – for yourself or your loved one – are the focus of the book, which was written while Davison was under house arrest in New Zealand.

“I had plenty of time to kill,” said Davison, ironically. “It is a day-by-day account, as well as a story behind the story of what happened”. He said the public in South Africa was very confused about what was happening at the time. “They heard I was arrested for attempted murder. The trial began with an attempted murder charge. Eventually I was convicted for an assisted suicide. Still people are asking the questions, ‘How could that happen when it was clearly an act of compassion?’ Some people saw the Cape Times when I returned on bail. The banner headline read ‘Davison admits his crime was a crime of passion’.”

Davison, who is a biotechnologist on the staff at UWC, said the book was a diary. “I’m not a writer. I’m a scientist. I don’t have the gift of writing that a real writer has. Writing a diary – anyone can do it – all I did was put my thoughts on paper. There’s no great skill there. Keep in mind it was written at a time of great stress. I didn’t go back and censor it later. Now I look at it and find some of it very embarrassing, but to take it back would defeat the purpose of the book,” he said.

A woman in the audience shared the harrowing account of her son who was suffering from late stage pancreatic cancer during the time of Davison’s trial in New Zealand. He jumped to his death from the cliffs of Christchurch. Many in the audience were visibly distressed. Davison reiterated the importance of his ongoing work as the founder of DignitySA in order to prevent such a humiliating scenario. “Suicides can go wrong. You can survive a jump, or a hanging…”

Davison is campaigning for the basic human right to die with dignity, so that those afflicted with a terminal illness may have the option to end his or her life with assistance in order to preserve personal privacy and dignity as well as alleviate suffering.

* * * * * * * *

Liesl Jobson tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

Book details


Please register or log in to comment