A bill providing for a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare has been tabled in parliament.
The National Health Amendment Bill, a private member’s bill drawn up by Deidre Carter, a COPE member of parliament, was published for comment in July 2018.
The bill will “provide for legal recognition, legal certainty and legal enforceability regarding advance health care directives such as the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare.”
According to the explanatory summary published last year, the bill aims to, inter alia:
• provide for and clarify the legal status of two types of advance health care directives, namely, a “living will” and a “durable power of attorney for healthcare”;
• set out the purpose, scope and format for these advance health care directives and provide for the resolution of disputes related to these directives;
• clarify whether a “living will” or a substitute decision-maker’s decision may be overridden by a medical practitioner or family members in any circumstances; and
• clarify whether someone acting upon these directives is immune from criminal and civil prosecutions.
According to Ms Carter, the current National Health Act provisions on advance health care directives are inadequate for a number of reasons including that a “living will” is not expressly recognised; the purpose, scope and format of these advance health care directives are not explicitly set out and how to deal with a situation where two substitute decision-makers disagree about the treatment the patient should receive.
The bill seeks to amend the National Health Act of 2003, so as to:
• amend a definition and to insert new definitions;
• provide for the legal recognition and requirements of a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.
The portfolio committee on health will process the bill.