Extreme elective or cosmetic surgery and controversial patient choice: A Constitutional analysis

Authors Hanneke Verwey, Pieter A Carstens

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: MacRobert Attorneys, Department of Professional Indemnity Law; Department of Public Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 30 Issue 1, 2014, p. 89 – 110


The specific fundamental human rights protected in the Bill of Rights that come into play when patients make controversial requests for extreme forms of cosmetic surgery are discussed. The meaning of human dignity in South African constitutional law forms the focus of the first part of this article. By applying a constitutional conception of human dignity, the question is answered whether extreme forms of cosmetic surgery most likely promotes or impedes human dignity. In this regard, the relationship between autonomy and dignity and the question whether autonomous individuals should be prevented from participating in activities that might limit their dignity is addressed. The same enquiry is made concerning the other fundamental human rights that are applicable to extreme forms of cosmetic surgery. This includes the right to bodily integrity and the right to privacy. The limitation of these fundamental human rights in terms of s 36 of the Constitution is then addressed.