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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.101 n.9 Pretoria Sep. 2011




Child consent in South African law - implications for researchers, service providers and policy-makers



To the Editor: Our article1 compared and contrasted the ages at which South African children could consent independently to various health-related interventions at the time of publication and when the Children's Act (No. 38 of 2005) became fully operational. As this Act has been fully implemented, all the ages of consent that we indicated would come into operation are now in force. We would like to bring this fact to your readers' attention and ask that they read the original article together with this letter.

Tables I and II highlight where information has been updated. Table I shows the ages at which children can consent independently to 7 key health-related interventions, previously, currently and in the future.1 The only procedure where there may be change in the future, is consent to health research - if s71 of the National Health Act (2003) as drafted is implemented, the age of independent consent to research will be 18 years and older. Children from the age of 12 can now consent to 4 of the 7 interventions, indicating a shift towards children of this age and older having the ability to consent to various healthrelated activities. Certain of the health interventions have different requirements, e.g. children need 'sufficient maturity' to consent to medical treatment while they need to simply demonstrate that they are 12 in order to consent to HIV testing.

Table II sets out the persons who can provide proxy consent for children who do not have the capacity to consent themselves. Again, research is the only area where there may be future changes. The key change introduced by the Children's Act (2010) is the recognising of caregivers as authorised to provide proxy consent.

This conceptual research was funded by the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of SAAVI.


Ann Strode
Faculty of Law and HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Pietermaritzburg; and
HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Catherine Slack
Zaynab Essack

HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group
University of KwaZulu-Natal


1. Strode A, Slack C, Essack Z. Child consent in South African law: Implications for researchers, service providers and policy-makers. S Afr Med J 2010;100:247-240.         [ Links ]

2. Children's Act (No. 38 of 2005). Section 71 of the National Health Act (2003).         [ Links ]

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