The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) found Wouter Basson guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct during December, 2013, and sentencing is expected to take place in February, 2014.
The Guardian Liberty Voice published an article recently on the integrity of unethical and unprofessional conduct and the amnesty granted to doctors by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Lieutenant General Veejay Ramlakan, former Surgeon General, and Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, KwaZulu-Natal, Health MEC, were both practicing doctors during 1985 and were involved in several bomb attacks in Durban. Both doctors admitted before the TRC that they had supplied explosive devices during the African National Congress’s (ANC) sting operation “Butterfly” in 1985 and their attacks on civilian targets. Were their actions also unethical and unprofessional? Wouter Basson was a practicing doctor during that time and he was found guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct.
Last week, civil rights group AfriForum, sought legal action and lodged a formal complaint to the HPCSA. The HPCSA issued a statement and confirmed the formal complaint had been received against the two doctors for alleged violations in the apartheid era. AfriForum expected the HPCSA to act against other medical practitioners who were involved in bombings that caused serious injuries and death in some instances. Wouter Basson was charged and found guilty of unethical behavior for his acts of violence during the apartheid era, and the HPCSA should act against other doctors involved in the same conduct. The integrity of TRC and impartiality to all involved should be considered. Six other doctors also submitted independent complaints to the council.
This week the HPCSA dismissed the complaint against the Sibongiseni Dhlomo KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, and Vejaynand Ramlakan former surgeon-general, for their involvement in a series of attacks on civilians during 1985. In a statement issued, the council said they scrutinized the complaint and found that both doctors submitted statements of their involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle to the TRC and according to the law could not be prosecuted. The council mentioned that the contents of the complaint relied on incriminating evidence from the TRC proceedings that was problematic. To determine the balance of probabilities that both doctors are guilty of unprofessional conduct, the board would have to rely on the TRC reports, and this is against the law.
After the dismissal of the HPCSA, Dhloma said that the complaint by AfriForum “smacked of racism.” No comment from Ramlakan was received.
AfriForum is set to appeal against the outcome of this charge and said that this was not a criminal procedure but rather an ethical one. It would seem as if HPCSA is being political regarding this matter.
This complaint is not about the TRC, it is about apartheid and medical professionals. It is about the integrity of any medical person. Wouter Basson was found guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct by the council for his involvement during the apartheid era, and Dhlomo and Ramlakan were not. The facts state that both these doctors were involved in killing innocent people so was their behavior not unethical.
Medical practitioners live by a code of ethics, regardless of their color,
religion or qualification. Basson was charged and so should others who acted in similar circumstances. A doctor should not conspire to take a life. Did Basson, Dhlomo and Ramlakan not plan to take a life? Basson was charged for killing innocent people, and the doctors of the ANC who killed innocent people were not.
Being selective in deciding who is unethical is wrong. Basson did not use his medical knowledge to kill anyone. He developed chemicals that were used to kill people, and the ANC doctors did not use their medical knowledge to kill anyone. Both Dhlomo and Ramlakan were part of an organization that planned to kill innocent people. The cowardly and despicable act of killing schoolchildren is unethical.
The principles of the unethical and unprofessional conduct by Wouter Basson are similar to the conduct of both Dhlomo and Ramlakan. The ANC agreed not to kill civilians during their armed struggle. Legitimate targets were not attacked, and most of their bombings included soft targets like schools, shopping centers and banks. Under international law, this would make them war criminals. It is unprofessional and unethical for any doctor to resort to killing of children and women. Is the unethical conduct of Wouter Basson similar to the ANC’s military doctors during the same struggle?
Opinon By Laura Oneale