The constitution and patient's rights

In terms of South Africa’s constitution each person is entitled to human dignity, equality and freedom. This should also be the case when a patient receives medical treatment in the private and public sector.

The Government has an obligation to protect the life of every person in South Africa. The patient has the right to receive medical treatment.

Urgent Medical Care:

In terms of section 27 (3) of the Constitution urgent medical treatment may not be refused in private or public sector. This implies that any patient in need of urgent care should receive medical treatment by the nearest hospital to such an extent that the patient is stabilised.

A Patient’s right to Privacy

A patient need to consent to any examination as the patient has a right to privacy in terms of section 14 of the Constitution. Furthermore a patient must consent to medical records being disclosed as this falls within the ambit of section 14.

Medical Ethical aspects and the Patient

The Patient’s privacy and confidentiality is not absolute in terms of ethical requirements. In certain situations the medical professional or health care provider is required to disclose certain information even if it is contrary to the patient’s instructions.

In terms of the International Code of Medical Ethics of the World Medical Association, a physician has to preserve absolute confidentiality of all aspects of the patient.

The declaration of Helsinki states that in medical research medical doctors should protect human privacy, health, life and dignity.

Every patient or client has the following rights in terms of the National Patient’s Charter.

  • A healthy and safe environment
  • Participation in decision-making

Access to health care services which include:

  • Receiving timely emergency care
  • Treatment and rehabilitation
  • Provision for special needs
  • Counselling
  • Palliative care
  • A positive disposition
  • Health information
  • Knowledge of one's own health insurance / medical aid scheme
  • Choice of health services
  • Be treated by a named health care provider
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Informed consent
  • Refusal of treatment
  • Be referred for a second opinion
  • Continuity of care
  • Complain about health services

Every patient or client has the following responsibilities

  • To take care of his or her health
  • To care for and protect the environment
  • To respect the right of other patients and health providers
  • To utilise the health care system
  • To know his or her local health service and what they offer
  • To provide health care providers with the relevant and accurate information for diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation or counselling purposes
  • To advise the health care providers on his or her wishes with regard to his or her death
  • To comply with the prescribed treatment or rehabilitation procedures
  • To enquire about the related costs of the treatment and / or rehabilitation and arrange for payment
  • To take care of health records in his or her possession