Living Wills and Advance Directives in South African Law
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2004; 23(4): 937-943
The legal status of living wills and advance directives in South African Law will be considered. Presently there is no reported judgment of a court in South Africa which has directly ruled on the validity of an advance directive or living will. In a case decided in 1992 the issue as to whether to discontinue life supporting treatment was decided with reference to the legal persuasions of society and whether, in light of these, it would be reasonable to discontinue artificial feeding of the patient. The judge indicated that just as a living person has an interest in the disposal of his body so did he think that the patient's wishes as expressed when he was in good health should be given effect. In South African law every person is legally entitled to refuse medical treatment even if the consequences may be to hasten death. The South African Law Convention has extensively investigated the issue in its report entitled Report on Euthanasia and the Artificial Preservation of Life in 1998. Certain problems were identified and a draft bill was suggested.
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