Dr Death ducks doomsday (again)

2010-06-05 17:23

Dr Wouter Basson, former head of the apartheid regime’s chemical

and biological weapons research programme, has once again postponed his day of

reckoning at the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

He has informed the HPCSA that he was appealing against last

month’s Pretoria High Court decision to reject his attempt to prevent a

disciplinary committee of his peers from probing his contentious past.

The HPCSA had been investigating Basson’s involvement in the

previous government’s death projects since 2000, after more than 40 doctors

complained about his unethical conduct.

In 2007, the council brought six charges against Basson relating to

his tenure at Project Coast.

These included allegations of performing tests in the absence of

approved medical research guidelines, manufacturing incapacitating drugs and

gases including mandrax, ecstasy and acid, and providing disorientating

substances for kidnapping purposes.

But Basson’s disciplinary hearing by his medical peers had hardly

started when he approached the Pretoria High Court in an attempt to put an end

to it.

After Judge Eberhardt Bertelsmann sent Basson back to the dock

where he is to be judged by his fellow medical doctors, the HPCSA declared

itself “elated”.

But the council this week learnt that Dr Death was determined to

avoid the HPCSA dock.

Basson had informed the council that he would lodge his appeal

against Bertelsmann’s judgment “somewhere in June”, HPCSA spokesperson Bertha

Peters-Scheepers told City Press.

Licence at stake

Although Basson was acquitted of similar charges at his criminal

trial, the HPCSA disciplinary could cost him his medical licence.

Basson has evaded the scrutiny of his peers far longer than two

other notorious South African medical doctors who served the apartheid regime

instead of their patients.

Two years after activist Steve Biko’s death in detention in 1977, a

South African Medical and Dental Council (SAMDC) disciplinary committee ruled

that there was no prima facie case against the two doctors who (mis)treated him

shortly before his death.

It took eight years and intense pressure before the SAMDC took

proper disciplinary action against medical doctors Benjamin Tucher and Ivor


It did so in 1985 after Transvaal judge president Wes Boshoff

ordered the SAMDC to hold an inquiry into the conduct of the two doctors. The

SAMDC struck Tucker of the medical roll and severly reprimanded Lang.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” declared Dr. Norman Mabasa,

chairperson of the SA Medical Association, the professional body representing

South Africa’s medical doctors yesterday.

He pleaded for a “speedy resolution” of the case at a “fair

hearing” and pointed that the matter dealt with the ethical obligation of

medical doctors to resist being used as the tools of destruction of human life

by the government or political parties.

He blamed both Basson’s efforts to have the HPCSA hearing stopped

by the Pretoria High Court and problems with the HPCSA case bought against

Basson for the drawn-out process.

The HPCSA, Mabasa said, must bring a “properly prepared” case

against the doctor and resolve the matter “speedily”.


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