Public health officials and MECs for health should be held criminally liable for causing the death of cancer patients through their intentional or negligent conduct that results in oncology equipment not working in hospitals

DJ McQuoid-Mason


Public health officials and Members of the Executive Council (MECs) for health who allow cancer patients to die because of a failure to renew service contracts for hospital oncology machines – without providing a viable alternative – may be found guilty of having the ‘eventual intention’ to cause such deaths, and convicted of murder if the other elements of the crime are satisfied. Should the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decline to prosecute them for murder, they may still be prosecuted for culpable homicide. To succeed in such a prosecution, the NPA would have to prove that reasonable public health officials in their position would have foreseen that a failure to renew service contracts for oncology machines at a hospital might deprive scores of cancer patients of early access to oncology services and result in their deaths.

Author's affiliations

DJ McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Howard College School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2017;10(2):83-85. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2017.v10i2.00611

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-12-20
Date published: 2017-12-20

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