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Legislation on assisted dying long overdue - Dignity SA

The draft National Health Amendment Bill has been drafted with the help of Dignity SA, which lobbies for the right of South Africans to die in a dignified way.

FILE: Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Lobby group Dignity South Africa says that legislation aimed at ensuring the wishes of terminally ill patients are heeded is long overdue.

Congress of the People (Cope) chief whip Deidre Carter plans to introduce a draft bill in Parliament that will spell out the legal status of living wills and durable power of attorney for healthcare, where a person gives someone else the power to make decisions on their behalf.

The draft National Health Amendment Bill has been drafted with the help of Dignity SA, which lobbies for the right of South Africans to die in a dignified way.

Dignity SA’s Willem Landman says the South African Law Commission recommended as long ago as 1999 that advance healthcare directives, such as living wills, be legalised, but there was no action by Parliament.

Landman says there’s a need for legal certainty to prevent a patient’s wishes to refuse further medical treatment from being ignored by family members or medical practitioners.

“On the part of the medical profession or at least members of the medical profession, there is ignorance, uncertainty and even unnecessary fear that respecting or acting upon advance directives would have legal consequences.”

Cope MP Deidre Carter says the bill will be ready to be published for public comment next week.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)