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Medical Law in South Africa

Medical Law in South Africa on the Issue of Informed Consent

Failure to get informed consent for a particular medical treatment according to the regulations of medical law in South Africa falls within the scope of medical practice if the failure to do so has caused harm to the patient. The National Health Act, no. 61 of 2003 details the obligations of the healthcare provider regarding informed consent.

According to the Act, the healthcare provider must inform the patient or healthcare patient of their health status. The medical law in South Africa, however, also stipulates that the healthcare provider does not have to inform the patient of the patient’s health status in the instance where there is substantial evidence that the disclosure of the information would not be in the best interest of the patient.

In addition, medical law in South Africa, as set out in the National Health Act, stipulates that the healthcare provider must inform the patient of diagnostic procedures and treatment options available. The healthcare provider must also inform the patient of the risks, benefits, expenses, and the consequences of each procedure or treatment option. In addition, the patient must be informed about the right to refuse health services and must be informed about the risks, implications and obligations associated with refusal of the health services.

It must be done in a manner that ensures understanding by the patient. The healthcare provider must keep the patient’s literacy level in mind when explaining the above.

According to Chapter 2 of the National Health Act of South Africa, subject to Chapter 8 of the Act, the healthcare provider may not provide a health service to the patient without the patient’s informed consent. Within the same law, however, it is stipulated that there are instances when such a health service can be provided without the informed consent of the patient. These include instances where:

  • The patient is not able to provide informed consent and where the consent is then given by a person who is mandated by the patient in writing to give consent on their behalf or who is authorised to give consent in terms of any court order or law.
  • The patient is unable to provide informed consent and there is no person authorised or mandated to do so on their behalf, and the consent is provided by the partner or spouse of the patient, a parent, grandparent, adult child or sibling of the patient in the order listed.
  • A court order or law authorises the service without consent from the patient.
  • Failure to provide treatment for the particular condition or injury of the patient or injuries of a group of people will cause serious risk to public health.
  • Any delay in providing the healthcare service will result in the death of the patient or irreversible damage to the patient’s health, and the patient has not implied or expressed refusal of the service.

Under the medical law in South Africa, the healthcare provider must take all reasonable steps to get informed consent from the patient before proceeding with a particular course of treatment.

Seek legal advice regarding your rights to compensation if you have suffered irreversible or serious damage as the result of medical treatment to which you have not consented. Contact Adele van der Walt incorporated for more information about medical law in South Africa.


Information in this article is not intended as legal advice and is only for informational purposes. Please seek legal guidance from Adele van der Walt Incorporated before relying on this information to make any legal decisions.

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