oa South African Medical Journal - Parents refusing blood transfusions for their children solely on religious grounds : who must apply for the court order? - medical and the law - in practice

Volume 110 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



The South African Constitution provides that children have the right to healthcare, as well as all other rights. Furthermore, in all matters affecting them, their best interests must be ‘of paramount importance’. It seems common practice that, when parents refuse blood transfusions for their children solely on religious grounds, doctors and health authorities apply for a court order to overturn such refusals. However, since the implementation of the Children’s Act of 2005, it may be that the onus is no longer on doctors and authorities to apply to court to reverse the decision of parents and guardians. It can be argued instead that the burden has shifted to the parents to apply to court for an order to overrule the decision of doctors, by proving to the court that alternative choices are available. Guidance is given for situations, particularly in the public sector, where alternative choices are not available.

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