Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has discouraged the use of the term "terminally ill" to refer to inmates released on medical parole.
"It is expected by society that once you declare a criminal as terminal... once he walks out of our centre, people will start doing a countdown and believe the person is about to die tomorrow," she told reporters in Pretoria on Thursday.
She said it was very difficult for doctors to say when an inmate was at a terminal stage, because they were expected to answer why the released person had not died.
"It's not in our hands when the person is going to die," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula was introducing the members of the new Medical Parole Advisory Board in Pretoria.
The ten-member panel, to be chaired by Dr Victor Ramathesele, will independently review all applications for medical parole.
The board comprises medical doctors who will investigate whether an applicant is eligible for parole.
Once the amendment to section 79 of the Correctional Services Act 1998 was finalised, inmates would be allowed to make representations for medical parole.
The current act only permits medical doctors to initiate the parole process.
The new board would come into effect on 1 March.