Naas Botha's wife's 'incredible' doctor sued for millions

By Jana Smit
10 October 2016

Karen Botha said the specialist anaesthetist "changed her life" – but two of his patients have made shocking claims against him.

The doctor who helped relieve the pain suffered by Karen Botha, wife of rugby commentator Naas Botha, has been sued for millions by two women.

Dr Russell Raath, a specialist anaesthetist at the pain clinic of the Netcare Jakaranda Hospital in Pretoria, has been sued by Salomé Janse van Rensburg (40), from Eldoraigne, and Beatrix van der Merwe (53), from Centurion.

Salomé sued Russell for R5,1 million on 25 April.

She says she used to be very active and played sport. But after her pain treatment things were different. “I can no longer pick up a cup without looking at it; otherwise I spill the contents.”

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Salomé suffers from incomplete tetraplegia, a kind of paralysis affecting all four limbs. She received rehabilitation treatmnent in the Muelmed Hospital in Pretoria. She can walk and climb stairs – with supervision – but her muscles are very weak.

It’s all very frustrating for her. “But I regard myself as a miracle because a team of neurologists said I wouldn’t  walk again,” she says.

In 2013 Salomé consulted Russell about severe headches. A rhizotomy, usually a small procedure, was carried out on her neck to relieve the pain. She alleges her spinal cord was damaged during the procedure. Russell denies this in his defence plea.

Beatrix’s life also changed after the injections. She sued Russell for R4,6 million in June. She alleges that because of the procedure she now suffers from Brown Sequard Syndrome, which led to hemiplegia (paralysis or a degree of weakness on one side of the body) of her right side. “Now I have more pain than before the procedure.

“I had planned that when I retired at 63 I would use my annuity funds to take a seaside holiday. But now I won’t e able to because I can’t walk on sand or grass. My left foot burns all the time.”

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She says before the injections she experienced pain -- but not as much as she has now. “When I went for the procedure I thought I would be back home that afternoon. But I went to a day clinic for the procedure on 10 July (2014) and was discharged from the hospital where I was sent after the procedure only on 16 October.”

At the Muelmed Hospital in Pretoria she learnt to sit again before she began to walk with a walking ring. After that her brother-in-law helped with rehabilitation.

But Karen describes Russell as an excellent doctor. “I don’t know the background of any of his patients but perhaps two or three are making a fuss. He has thousands of patients.”

She describes him as an “incredibly clever and good doctor. He changed my life.”

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The former Springbok long-jump athlete, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the end of 2007 and with rheumatoid arthritis at the beginning of 2008, says there are so many good things (about Russell) that no-one mentions. “I don’t know precisely what the situation (with the two women) is, but I would recommend him 120 percent. He knows his field better than anyone else in South Africa.”

She says after YOU’s article this year many people sent her messages on Facebook.

“I haven’t spoken to a single person who didn’t have praise for him,” she says.

On request Dr Russell said he wasn’t going to give “just a few thoughts” as comment on the matter, but that YOU should make an appointment and come and see him in person. YOU gave him more time in which to comment.

A few days later Dr Raath indicated that he’d discussed the matter with his lawyers. “After a long discussion our decision was: We’re busy with our own investigation which will take a few days or a week or two. As soon as we’ve finished we’ll gladly have an interview – but a comprehensive, proper interview/discussion face to face.”

He indicated that YOU could call his office in 10 days’ time to make an appointment.

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