n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - The beginning of human personhood : is South African law outdated?

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1016-4359
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2193



Recent advances in medical science and technology have renewed debate relating to the attribution of human personhood and highlighted some of the definitional problems of the legal concept of "person". This article considers the origin and contemporary relevance of the born alive rule which provides the legal threshold for human personhood. It analyses the approach of the South African judiciary to human personhood, with particular emphasis on the born alive rule. It shows that the approach of the South African judiciary has been characterized by ambivalence and anxiety. The conclusion of the article is that for the law to become principled and contemporarily relevant, it is imperative that it respond with a re-articulation of the concept of human personhood. The modern rationale which is needed must take into account non-legal factors such as the prevailing state of medical science and technology.

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