Ethics and the law relating to post-birth rituals

Published in: South African Family Practice
Volume 55, issue 1, 2013 , pages: S12–S14
DOI: 10.1080/20786204.2013.10874315
Author(s): D Knapp van BogaertSteve Biko Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Health,, GA OgunbanjoDepartment of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Faculty of Health Sciences,


Placental rituals and other birth-by rituals are common in various societies. They often include culturally determined behavioural sequences which operate as anxiety-releasing mechanisms. They also serve to offer a spiritual means of “control” over the future health and welfare of mother, child, and even the community. As long as such rituals do not cause harm, they should be respected for the role that they play and be left alone. This article discusses the ethical and legal considerations regarding post-birth rituals and their relevance to South Africa, with special reference to the South African Human Tissue Act.

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