Basson 'acted as soldier'

2013-07-18 20:14
Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - Former surgeon general Dr Niel Knobel insisted on Thursday that Dr Wouter Basson acted as a soldier when he headed South Africa's chemical and biological warfare programme in the 1980s.

Knobel concluded his evidence before the Health Professions Council of SA in a hearing on the ethical conduct of the Cape Town cardiologist.

Basson is accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and teargas, weaponising teargas and supplying it to Unita leader Jonas Savimbi.

He is also accused of acting unethically by providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings, and making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

US medical ethics expert Prof Steven Miles previously testified that Basson had violated the laws of humanity and various World Medical Association declarations and regulations.

In contrast, Knobel said Basson was a soldier and not a doctor when he headed the chemical and biological warfare programme.

Knobel disagreed with Miles's view that once one was a doctor, one remained a doctor, and that Basson had made use of his medical knowledge and skills when he headed the programme.

Knobel said on Thursday there had been a real threat of Cubans, Russians and Angolans using chemical and biological substances against South Africa in the form of bombs in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He said it would have been impossible to get a chemical and biological warfare programme off the ground without the input of medical doctors, which was why most of the people involved in the programme were in the medical field.

He said the project was aimed at using them in the development and use of weapons, to minimise injury and harm to humans.

Carried out orders

At the time, Basson was deployed by special forces as a soldier and not as a medical doctor, and there was no distinct indication of a doctor-patient relationship.

"A doctor is not only a doctor. He can also, for example, be a businessman or a rugby player. When special forces troops are deployed on the battlefield, a medic who carries a sidearm is deployed with them.

"If they're attacked, he fights as well... .When the battle is over, he will go to his and the enemy troops and determine how seriously they're injured.

"He treats those patients in front of him as patients. He doesn't even look if they're own or enemy troops. That's when there's a doctor-patient relationship," he said.

Basson has argued that the surgeon general at the time was in overall charge of the programme, and that he only carried out orders as a soldier.

A legal representative for Lt-Gen Vejaynand Ramlakan, who was the surgeon general for the SA National Defence Force between 2005 and March this year, indicated he would be "reluctant" to testify on Basson's behalf.

The hearing was told that Ramlakan had posed certain questions to Basson and his legal team, and would consider his position depending on the answers he received.

Final legal argument would be presented in the hearing in November.

- SAPA
Read more on:    sandf  |  wouter basson  |  health  |  military
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