CPD Articles

Legal requirements for reporting clinical cases to the South African police or social services

Dirk T. Hagemeister, William Oosthuizen, Bridgette Mokae
South African Family Practice | Vol 66, No 1 : Part 4| a5919 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v66i1.5919 | © 2024 Dirk T. Hagemeister, William Oosthuizen, Bridgette K. Mokae | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2024 | Published: 29 June 2024

About the author(s)

Dirk T. Hagemeister, Department of Family Medicine, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; and, Department of Family Medicine, Free State Department of Health, Bloemfontein, South Africa
William Oosthuizen, Department of Legal Affairs, South African Medical Association, Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa
Bridgette Mokae, Department of Criminology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, South Africa

Abstract

Medical confidentiality is the cornerstone for a trustful relationship between patients and the health professionals attending to them. However, when history or clinical findings suggest certain offenses, statutory laws (Children’s Act, Older Persons Act, Mental Health Care Act, Sexual Offenses Act) establish a legal obligation for health professionals to report suspected instances of abuse to the police or alternatively, in some cases, to a designated social worker. Given the high rate of domestic violence and abuse in South Africa, health professionals are most likely to encounter such situations. Many clinicians are oblivious of the obligations, exposing themselves to possible liability and their patients to potential additional harm. This article aims to demonstrate the reporting requirements under the respective acts through case scenarios. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of the existing legal setting are discussed briefly.


Keywords

mandatory reporting; South Africa; abuse; vulnerable populations; delivery of healthcare

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