Traditional healer July Shrinda throws the bones to predict the outcome of the Rugby World Cup in November 2019. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
  • A SABS standard on ethical guidelines for traditional health practitioners is now in the public comment phase. It covers diviners, herbalists, and traditional health surgeons.
  • Traditional healers should keep detailed patient records, the draft guidelines say, and run a hygienic shop.
  • They should also, for healing purposes at least, not use genetically modified organisms or human body parts.
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A technical committee of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has entered the public-inquiry phase of drafting an ethics guideline for traditional healers in South Africa,  

The document, formally known as ARP 2077, "Guidelines on ethics for traditional health practitioners (THP) in traditional health care" is due to apply across the application of traditional medicine, covering diviners using methods such as throwing the bones, herbalists, and traditional health surgeons.

It will offer recommended practices on "discipline and professionalism required" from practitioners, but also deals with registration and recognition of healers, where it recommends taking into considering testimonials from community members.

Traditional healers, the guidelines say, should keep detailed patient records of diagnoses and management plans for five years, and should respond to emergency requests for health care or products.

African traditional medicine surgeries should be cleaned daily, be well ventilated, and feature facilities for hand washing, the document says.

It also recommends keeping surgical gloves and masks on hand for examinations, and that traditional health surgeons in particular should complete a course in first aid.

Except in emergencies, surgeries should not attend to patients younger than 18 if not accompanied by a responsible adult, the draft standard recommends.

Traditional practitioners should use medicines "that are in line with what they are trained for", the document says.

It also has one ethical recommendation on the type of medicine to be used.

"Human body parts or genetically modified organisms should not be used for any healing purposes," it says.

The draft is open for public comment until 20 April, and is available from the SABS on request.

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