Legal and Ethical Issues Around Chronically Defaulting TB Patients | Western Cape Government


Legal and Ethical Issues Around Chronically Defaulting TB Patients

2 June 2005
Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease, which has to be contained and treated. It is a medical fact that patients who repeatedly interrupt their treatment or do not take their medication may run the risk of contracting Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) tuberculosis - a highly infectious disease caused by a strain of TB organisms that is resistant to normal TB treatment drugs.

The treatment of which is therefore extremely challenging and people who are infected pose a significant risk to others.

While the Department of Health does not have the legal right to incarcerate MDR patients, the Health Act allows it to place such persons under quarantine subject to medical examination or surveillance and treat them accordingly - preventing the spread of such a communicable disease.

The Department must thus take reasonable steps to contain the disease, in order to protect the broader community. It is clearly not the intention of the Department that such persons should be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

The existing problem with MDR patients is partly due to patient's reluctance to submit to treatment. The Department as part of a broader strategy will seek to quarantine such patients who indicate a reluctance to voluntarily submit to treatment for their own good and the good of the community as a whole.

Such action will reduce the possibility of transmission of multi drug resistant tuberculosis within communities in the Western Cape.

Issued by:
Communications Directorate
Office of the Superintendent-General of Health
Western Cape
Provincial Department of Health

Faiza Steyn
Director: Communications
Tel: 021 483 3235
Fax: 021 483 6169

Media Enquiries: