Can doctors be used in warfare?
Johannesburg - An inquiry into the conduct of cardiologist Wouter Basson will shed light on whether governments can use doctors as instruments of warfare, the SA Medical Association (Sama) said on Thursday.
"This inquiry is not about whether he was involved or not. The issue at hand is whether he overstepped the boundaries of medical ethics in becoming involved," Sama chairperson Dr Norman Mabasa said in a statement.
"The matter is significant in that it will shed light on the debate of whether medical practitioners can be used by government in power as instruments of warfare."
The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) inquiry is probing Basson’s conduct while he was head of the apartheid government's chemical and biological weapons programme.
The HPCSA has brought six charges of unethical or unprofessional conduct against him.
They relate to alleged human rights abuses Basson committed during the apartheid era.
Mabasa said Sama believed the hearing would also help "establish whether doctors can get involved in biological warfare projects as a call of duty to their government".
Sama said it would seek to ensure that Basson's hearing was conducted in a fair manner.
"It is beyond our mandate to make any judgment, only the HPCSA can make the final decision," Mabasa said.
"Basson must, however, be presumed innocent until proven guilty by the HPCSA."
Basson's hearing would continue in Pretoria on Thursday.