Noakes clears final hurdle, not guilty says HPCSA appeal committee

The HPCSA's appeal committee has upheld the not guilty verdict found in Professor Tim Noakes' case of alleged unprofessional conduct, his Foundation announced on Friday.

The Health Professionals Council of SA (HPCSA) charged Professor Noakes with unprofessional conduct in 2014 for "giving unconventional advice over social media (Twitter)". 

He was subsequently found not guilty in April 2017. The latest judgment stems from an appeal that the HPSCA then lodged with its appeal committee.

READ: Tim and Marilyn Noakes: We are fighters who never quit

"The argument of the Appellant that the Respondent provided unconventional advice of breast feeding babies is not persuasive and is rejected.

"Wherefore, it is the unanimous decision of the members of the appeal committee that the appeal be dismissed," reads the judgment, issued on Friday, of the Health Professions Council of South Africa's Appeal Committee.

'Acquitted on all counts'

Following the judgment, Noakes's Foundation issued a statement in which it said it was celebrating: "Finished and Klaar! Acquitted on all counts, twice, by two different judging panels.

"We fought the battle for the health of all South Africans... Now you know the truth; that you have been misinformed for 50 years. We all have been and the consequences on our health have been dire," Noakes was quoted as saying in the statement.

Jayne Bullen, the COO of The Noakes Foundation said the final outcome was one that would allow "the beginning of a new era that puts evidence-based science and pioneering, brave people first in the battle for human health".

She said the Foundation called on dieticians and nutritionist to revise a more contemporary approach to advice given to clients, especially to diabetics and those who were insulin resistant.

The Foundation once again extolled the virtues of the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet for those with diabetes.

The original tweet that started the storm of controversy was from a mother who asked: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? (sic)"

Noakes advised her to wean her child onto LCHF foods, which he described as "real" foods.

His tweet read: "Baby doesn't eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween (sic) baby onto LCHF."

During the previous three-day appeal in February – in which judgment was reserved – the committee heard that the tweet that landed Noakes in hot water was scientifically correct and could cause no potential harm.

Advocate Michael van der Nest SC, for Noakes, argued the appeal committee that there had been no doctor-patient relationship established between Noakes and the mother on Twitter, therefore there was no violation of the National Health Act.

"We are dealing with a debate, we are dealing with information sharing," said Van der Nest at the time.

He further said that what Noakes said on Twitter was scientifically correct and that allegations of the potential harm of Noakes' statement were unfounded.

Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand, however disputed this, saying the judgment in favour of Noakes had been an error – and added that Noakes did not have the expertise or the experience to give neonatal or infant-related advice.

In the statement on Friday, Noakes added that he, along with his wife, had chosen to fight the hearing "because we knew that what we are saying is the truth, and in the end the truth will always win".

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