Dr Bev Townsend

Telephone: +27 83 233 4437
Email TownsendB@ukzn.ac.za
Campus: Howard College (operating from Cape Town)


Bev holds the degrees of BA, LLB, LLM with specialisation in Commercial Law, Banking and Insurance Law, a P.G.Dip.(Tax), a second LLM degree obtained cum laude from UCT in Biotechnology Law, Electronic IP law, Electronic transactions law and Human Rights. She obtained her PhD from the University of Cape Town in 2017.

Bev is a part of the WHO working group on the Regulation of AI in Global Health.

In her PhD, Bev considered the interplay of the right to privacy and data protection in digital health in Africa. Her interest and expertise is in digital ethics, AI, governance and regulation in an electronic environment in the financial, technology, and healthcare sectors within developing economies and internationally. Specifically, she looks at the ethical tension created by data, especially Big Data and medical data, and the influence human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and data protection, have within a digital, electronic environment – that is – the highly contextual and nuanced nature of privacy and data protection in a networked world. Within this context she considers the regulation and ethical impact of such rights and how the right of privacy, freedom of expression and security rights contribute and conflict in a new digital era and the manner in which such rights may be reconciled in a helpful way.

Bev has over 12 years’ experience as a legal consultant and legal advisor within the insurance, financial, and banking sectors, both at Liberty Life and Investec Bank.

She is a part of the research team at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Health Law and Bioethics flagship, looking at the latest legal and ethical developments in gene editing and precision medicine, in particular, the application of CRISPR-Cas9, and the impact that altering the human genome has on society within the context of South African law. This research seeks to further the nanotechnology and biotechnological discourse by providing value and insight in addressing the legal, ethical and societal issues in genomic editing technologies, precision medicine, public health, deliberative public engagement, and policy formation.

Her focus has been at the intersection of law, science and ethics. In particular, in data protection; Big Bata; AI; the man-machine interface; medical negligence and malpractice law; data sharing and data transfer across jurisdictions; research ethics and bioethics; informed consent; biobanking; patents and benefit sharing; and the integration thereof within broader ethical imperatives and socio-economic considerations in South Africa. This with the objective of finding robust regulatory solutions that are culturally and contextually sensitive, robust, inclusive, and appropriate. Central to this discussion is the establishing of how public opinion obtained through a process of deliberative public collaboration and engagement can be used as a mechanism to direct and inform the regulation of ‘disruptive’ technologies, and to develop a normative framework that supports this.

Academic Qualifications:

  • BA (UNISA)
  • LLM (Banking, Commercial, Insurance Law, Human Rights) (UNISA)
  • P.Grad Dip (Tax) (UCT)
  • LLM (Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Law) (cum laude) (UCT)
  • PhD (UCT)

Professional Qualifications

  • Admitted as an Advocate of the High Court in 2000.

Research Interests

  • Health Law
  • Digital Health/eHealth
  • Informational Privacy and Data Protection
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human Rights
  • Ethics

Recent Publications and Papers

  • B Townsend, M Mars, R Scott. (2019). The Development of Ethical Guidelines for Telemedicine in South Africa. South African Journal of Bioethics and Law.
  • D Thaldar, B Townsend, M Botes, and B Shozi. Human Biological Material. LAWSA. In press.
  • B Townsend & D Thaldar. (2020). Informed Consent and Medical malpractice suits: Beukes v Smith. South African Law Journal.
  • B Townsend & D Thaldar. (2019). Navigating uncharted waters: biobanks and informational privacy in South Africa. South African Journal of Human Rights DOI:10.1080/02587203.2020.1717366.
  • D Thaldar & B Townsend. (2020). Genomic research and privacy: A response to Staunton et al. South African Medical Journal 110 DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i3.14431.
  • D Thaldar, M Botes, B Shozi, B Townsend & J Kinderlerer. Human germline editing: Legal-ethical guidelines for South Africa. South African Journal of Science. In press.
  • B Townsend, M Mars, R Scott. (2020). The HPCSA’s telemedicine guidance during COVID-19: A review. South African Journal of Bioethics and Law.
  • B Townsend. (2020). Software as Medical Devices (SaMDs): Critical rights issues regarding Artificial Intelligence software-based health technologies in South Africa. Journal of South African Law / Tydskrif vir Suid-Afrikaanse Reg. In press.