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South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

On-line version ISSN 2310-3833
Print version ISSN 0038-2337


VAN DER REYDEN, Dain. The right to respect for autonomy: Part 1 - What is autonomy all about?. S. Afr. j. occup. ther. [online]. 2008, vol.38, n.1, pp.27-31. ISSN 2310-3833.

This paper seeks to clarify the nature, extent and significance of a patient's right to respect for autonomy from the practitioner. It is one of two articles and attempts to contextualise patient autonomy within a legal, bioethical and professional perspective. The Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (108 of 1996), the Mental Health Care Act (17 of 2002), the National Health Act (61 of 2003) the Promotion of Access to Information Act (2 of 2000) as well as the rules of Professional Conduct as stipulated in the Health Professions Act (56 of 1974) are discussed as relevant to patient/client's right to respect for autonomy and inherent within that right, the right to informed consent, confidentiality, refusal of treatment, a second opinion, access to personal information and to be treated with respect and dignity. Common and case law are addressed briefly together with the bioethical principle of 'respect for autonomy.' Commentary is given on each of the Acts with a view to professional practice implications.

Keywords : patient autonomy; ethics; legislation; occupational therapy; patient rights.

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