The South African Chapter of the People’s Health Movement (PHMSA) is outraged that Dr Wouter Basson has yet again managed to avoid being sentenced by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for unethical conduct. We call on the HPCSA to strike Dr Basson from the medical register.
The People’s Health Movement condemns the postponement of Dr Basson’s sentencing and calls for him to be struck off the medical register.
Dr Wouter Basson, a heart specialist, oversaw the development and operation of a secret military programme under apartheid to develop Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW), in complete contravention of the laws of humanity and the principles of medical ethics.
In December 2013 a disciplinary committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) found him guilty of unprofessional conduct. He was due for sentencing this week. We have just learnt that his sentencing has been postponed again. We are outraged that he can escape accountability for his past again — the first complaint against his unethical conduct was lodged in 2001, 13 years ago. We condemn the delay and call on the HPCSA to set a firm date for the sentencing and to ensure that there are no further attempts at prevarication by Basson and his legal team.
The long delay in accounting for his apartheid past is mostly the result of Dr Basson’s cynical manipulation of rights to fair administrative procedure. Ironically, Basson now benefits from the very rights he opposed with such vigour and conviction that he was prepared to abuse his medical knowledge and violate the ethics of his profession; rights for which many people died and suffered during the struggle for a constitutional democracy.
Dr Basson claims to have left the past behind and that he is now a ‘good’ doctor. But he has never accounted for, admitted to, or even acknowledged his past unethical conduct. This persistent lack of insight into the ethics of medicine makes him unfit to be a member of the profession, however good his technical skills might be as a cardiologist.
How can an an ethical doctor supervise the production of weapons intended to harm and kill others?
How can an ethical medical doctor joke about allegations that he supervised the development of an ethnically-targeted vaccine intended to make black people infertile without their knowledge?
What kind of doctor sees the mass production of illegal psychoactive drugs as compatible with professional ethics?
What kind of doctor dispenses cyanide capsules to soldiers to help them kill themselves in the event of capture?
How can a medical doctor pretend that he never took the Hippocratic Oath and was not aware of Ethical Guidelines barring doctors from participating in CBW programmes?
We are not alone in believing that Dr Basson should be struck off the register. Twenty-nine other civil society organisations (including TAC, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, Black Sash, the Legal Resources Centre, the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa and others) have joined our campaign. Over 160 health professionals have signed a Statement of Concern that the only appropriate sentence is that he be struck from the register. Most recently, the South African Medical Association has joined the call, indicating that “SAMA expects nothing less than the harshest sanction from the HPCSA” for Dr Basson’s unprofessional conduct.
There is no place in this world for CBW. Doctors should uphold their professional ethics and not participate in any programmes to develop such weapons. Dr Basson subjugated ethics to political interests. The same thing happened when the doctors who treated Steve Biko allowed their clinical judgment to be dictated by the interests of the security forces, helping to cover up his torture and subsequent death.
We urge the HPCSA to ensure that justice is no longer denied by further delays. We call on civil society to monitor the HPCSA to make sure that the sentencing takes place soon.
Please join the campaign to have Dr Basson struck off the medical register here.
Read a full analysis of Dr Basson here.
Issued by the People’s Health Movement South Africa
4th July 2014
Contact: Professor Louis Reynolds
Chair, People’s Health Movement, South Africa