World Congress

for freedom of scientific research

Freedom of research in SOUTH AFRICA - Country report and synoptic table

05/04/2010

South Africa was surveyed by the students of Bryant University, RI, USA. Last update: March 2009. Any peer review of data is welcome.

Monitoring freedom of research and cure in SOUTH AFRICA* Table of content: A. Artificial reproduction technologies (ART) B. Research with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) C. End-of-life decisions D. Abortion and contraception Intro The amount of freedom awarded in regards to ethical and controversial issues is pretty high, in that the government does not prohibit many laws that some people from South Africa would find morally offensive. A. Artificial reproduction technologies (ART) Prenatal Genetic Diagnostics is legal in South Africa with few restrictions. In regards to surrogate mothers, there is increased restriction. B. Research with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) Stem cell research is another ethical topic that is permitted in South Africa, and there is moderate freedom allotted by the government. There are some restrictions, however. For instance, while embryonic stem cell research is perfectly legal, it must be done in a certain way. In addition, permission is required if that person is giving biological material for the purpose of genetic research. While there are many freedoms in regards to research, there are a few restrictions, as well. (Remark 1: According to UNESCO “REPORT OF IBC ON HUMAN CLONING AND INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE�? of June 2009, the National Health Act n°61 of 23 July 2004, Paragraph 57 states that in South Africa “(1) a person may not: (a) manipulate any genetic material, including genetic material of human gametes, zygotes or embryos: or (b) engage in any activity, including nuclear transfer or embryo splitting, […] (5) Any person who contravenes a provision of this section or who fails to comply therewith is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both a fine and such imprisonment�?. As far as it concern therapeutic cloning, “(2)the Minister may under such conditions as maybe prescribed, permit therapeutic cloning utilizing adult or umbilical cord stem cells. (3) No person may import or export human zygotes or embryos without the prior written approval of the Minister. (4) The Minister may permit research on stem cells and zygotes which are not more than 14 day olds on a written application and if (a) the applicant undertakes to document the research for record purposes: and (b) prior consent is obtained from the donor of such stem cells or zygotes�?). C. End-of-life decisions In regards to issues of euthanasia, another controversial issue, it is legal for doctors to refuse treatment to a terminally ill person. The exception to this is that it is prohibited for physicians to assist a person in committing suicide, but a doctor must respect the patient's refusal of life-sustaining treatment. D. Abortion and contraception Through research, we found that many people in South Africa are against abortions. However, the government promotes legal abortions and is a supporter of them because it allows a high level of freedom. In addition to the government belief that all women should be able to have an abortion, contraceptives are easily accessible, as well as access to the morning after pill and RU-486. (Remark 2: According to the report “Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress�? by the Guttmacher Institute, 2009, the 1996 Choice in Termination of Pregnancy Act permits abortions to be performed on request and without medical approval in designated health facilities during the first trimester of pregnancy. The process leading to abortion law reform was complex and multifaceted, involving researchers, activists, community groups, political representatives and religious leaders. After apartheid was dismantled, the election of a new South African government in 1994 formalized the country’s growing emphasis on human rights and equality. Women’s rights activists developed initiatives that supported a rights-based approach to reproductive health care and personal autonomy, and laid the foundation for the passage of the law. Researchers from the Medical Research Council of South Africa investigated complications from unsafe abortions and found that more than 400 women died from septic abortions in 1994; another study found that before the abortion law was reformed, women who presented with incomplete abortions constituted almost half of the gynecology and obstetrics caseload of public-sector hospitals in South Africa. Dissemination of such findings helped widen public awareness of the burden that unsafe abortion places on women and families). *(South Africa was surveyed by the students of Bryant University, RI, USA. Last update: March 2009. Little remarks have been added. Any peer review of data is welcome) Missing info on: E. Therapeutic uses of narcotic drugs; F. Pain treatments

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