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Medical Law and the Rights of the Patient in South Africa

As a patient, you have specific rights in South Africa. If your rights have been ignored or violated, it is best to approach an attorney specialising in medical law to assist in taking the necessary legal steps against the practitioner or institution in question.

You have the right to a safe environment when hospitalised or institutionalised at a medical care facility in South Africa. Even if you are a state patient and not able to pay for any of the medical services, by law you still have rights as a patient. A safe environment is one such a right. You have the right to clean and adequate water, a reasonable standard of sanitation, and protection against pollution or infection.

If you are, for instance, hospitalised and the water supply is cut off during the weekend, the medical caregivers must still ensure that you have clean water to drink. With a lack of water, the toilets can become clogged, but even so, you should have access to reasonable sanitation. Should the lack of a safe and healthy environment cause you injury and damages, then you have the right to seek compensation for such. It is, however, best to discuss your particular situation with an attorney specialising in medical law to help you determine the merits of your case.

Medical law in South Africa, under the National Health Act No.61 of 2003, makes provision for patients to allow another person to act on their behalf if they no longer have the ability to do so. The patients must provide such mandates in writing and it is recommended that terminally ill patients take the proactive step in mandating a person to act on their behalf if they cannot do so due to their medical condition.

You also have the right to receive timely emergency medical care at the particular healthcare facility regardless of your ability to pay for the services. If you are involved in a vehicle accident and are brought to a private healthcare facility’s emergency room, they do not have the right to turn you away without attending to the immediate emergency care to ensure your safety. If a medical care facility, whether private or public, turns you away and, as a result in the delay of treatment, you suffer medical injury and damages, you have the right to claim compensation for such damages. But with every situation being unique, it is best to discuss the particulars of the situation with a medical law attorney to help determine the merits of the case.

As the patient, you also have the right to confidentiality regarding your personal health history and information. Such information must be kept safe and secure. Open files lying around in a doctor’s room can become a breach of confidentiality if an unauthorised person gains access to the information and use it in a manner that causes the patient information to become public.

The doctor does not have the right to discuss your medical condition with his friends and mention your name in the process. Unless he seeks a second opinion on the condition, it can be seen as a breach of confidentiality. Here too, the particulars of the situation will determine whether the doctor has been negligent.

Keep in mind that medical law cases are complex and litigation can be expensive. As such, the first step to take should you believe that the violation of your rights as a patient has caused you to suffer pain, injury and damages is to seek legal guidance from an attorney specialising in medical law in South Africa.

You must have suffered injury and damages as the result of the violation of one of your patient rights, such as the right to informed consent, confidentiality, or the right to a reasonable standard of care. To prove negligence or malpractice you must be able to prove that the institution or caregiver had a duty of care and failed in providing a reasonable standard of care. Their action or lack thereof must have been the cause of your injury and damages.

Get legal guidance from a medical law attorney regarding your patient rights and injuries sustained as the result of a violation of your patient rights. Contact Adele van der Walt Incorporated today for more information.


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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