Title page for ETD etd-07212011-102104

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Pearmain, Deborah Louise
Email upetd@up.ac.za
URN etd-07212011-102104
Document Title A critical analysis of the law on health service delivery in South Africa
Degree LLD
Department Public Law
Advisor Name Title
Prof P A Carstens Supervisor
  • law of delict
  • law of contract
  • administrative law
  • health service delivery
  • health care in South Africa
  • international law
  • constitutional law
Date 2005-04-12
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines the law relating health care in South Africa rather than medical law which is a subset of this field. It attempts to synthesise five major traditional areas of law, namely international, constitutional, and administrative law, the law of contract and the law of delict, into a legal conceptual framework relating specifically to health care in South Africa. Systemic inconsistencies with regard to the central issue of health care across these five traditional fields are highlighted. The alignment of the various pre-existing areas of statutory and common law with the Constitution is an ongoing preoccupation of the executive, the judiciary, the legislature and academia. In the health care context, the thesis critically examines the extent to which such alignment has taken place and identifies areas in which further development is still necessary. It concludes that the correct approach to the constitutional right of access to health care services is to regard it as a unitary concept supported by each of the five traditional areas of law. The traditional division of law into categories of public and private and their further subdivision into, for instance, the law of delict and the law of contract is criticized. It promotes a fragmented approach to a central constitutional construct resulting in legal incongruencies. This is anathema to a constitutionally based legal system. There is no golden thread of commonality discernible within the various public international law instruments that contain references to rights relating to health and it is of limited practical use in South African health law. The rights in the Bill of Rights are interdependent and interconnected. The approach of the courts to the right of access to health care needs to be considerably broader than it is at present in order to fully embrace the idea of rights as a composite concept. Administrative law, especially in the public health sector, offers an alternative basis to pure contract for the provider-patient relationship. It is preferable to a contractual relationship because of the many inbuilt protections and legal requirements for administrative action. Contracts can be unfair but courts refuse to strike them down purely on this basis. Administrative action is much more likely to be struck down on grounds of unfairness: The law of contract as a legal vehicle for health service delivery is not ideal. This is due to the antiquated approach of South African courts to this area of law. There is still an almost complete failure to incorporate constitutional principles and values into the law of contract. The law of delict in relation to health care services has its blind spots. Although it seeks to place the claimant in the position in which he or she found himself prior to the unlawful act whereas the law of contract seeks to place him in the position he would have occupied had the contract been fulfilled, in the context of health care this is a notional distinction since contracts for health services seldom guarantee a specific outcome.

2004 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Pearmain, DL 2004, A critical analysis of the law on health service delivery in South Africa, LLD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07212011-102104/ >


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