Doctors can kill--active euthanasia in South Africa

Med Law. 2003;22(3):551-60.


Medical practitioners in South Africa will be given the legal right to end the lives of terminally ill patients. This is the practice of active euthanasia, the procedure whereby a medical doctor or a professional nurse can end the life of a terminally ill patient at the patient's request, by providing or administering a lethal dosage of a drug. Voluntary active euthanasia is included in a Draft Bill--The End of Life Decisions Act--which form part of a report of the South African Law Commission, wherein regulations regarding the end-of-life decisions are formulated. Specifically, it provides that a medical practitioner may under certain conditions stop the treatment of a patient whose life functions are being maintained artificially. Further, that a competent person may refuse life-sustaining treatment if he chooses to die. A medical practitioner may also give effect to a patient's living will in which the patient has requested the cessation of treatment. The Act also provides for the options of active voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Euthanasia, Active / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Living Wills / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Nurses / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Right to Die / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • South Africa
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Terminally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Withholding Treatment