National Health Amendment Bill in the Pipeline

Parliament

A draft bill providing for a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare is in the pipeline.

Comment has been called on the Draft National Health Amendment Bill, a private member’s bill drawn up by Deidre Carter, a COPE member of parliament.

The draft bill will “provide for legal recognition, legal certainty and legal enforceability regarding advance health care directives such as the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare.”

The draft bill aims to, inter alia:

•    provide for and clarify the legal status of two types of advance health care directives, namely, a “living will” and a “durable power of attorney for healthcare”;
•    set out the purpose, scope and format for these advance health care directives and provide for the resolution of disputes related to these directives;
•    clarify whether a “living will” or a substitute decision-maker’s decision may be overridden by a medical practitioner or family members in any circumstances; and
•    clarify whether someone acting upon these directives is immune from criminal and civil prosecutions.
 
According to Ms Carter, the current National Health Act provisions on advance health care directives are inadequate for a number of reasons including that a “living will” is not expressly recognised; the purpose, scope and format of these advance health care directives are not explicitly set out and how to deal with a situation where two substitute decision-makers disagree about the treatment the patient should receive.

Comment on the proposed content of the draft bill, published in Government Gazette 41789, is invited within 30 days of the date of publication of the notice.

The plan is to table the bill in parliament soon.

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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