Original articles

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

Ann Strode, Catherine Slack, Zaynab Essack


Children under 18 are legal minors who, in South African law, are not fully capable of acting independently without assistance from parents/legal guardians. However, in recognition of the evolving capacity of children, there are exceptional circumstances where the law has granted minors the capacity to act independently. We describe legal norms for child consent to health-related interventions in South Africa, and argue that the South African parliament has taken an inconsistent approach to: the capacity of children to consent; the persons able to consent when children do not have capacity; and restrictions on the autonomy of children or their proxies to consent. In addition, the rationale for the differing age limitations, capacity requirements and public policy restrictions has not been specified. These inconsistencies make it difficult for stakeholders interacting with children to ensure that they act lawfully.

Authors' affiliations

Ann Strode, Faculty of Law and HIV AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Catherine Slack, HIV AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Zaynab Essack, HIV AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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child consent; health-realted interventions; South African law; Children's Act

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(4):247-249.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-06-24
Date published: 2010-03-30

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