Basson never violated rights - witness

2012-03-30 22:23

Pretoria - Cardiologist Wouter Basson never violated human rights or medical ethical standards when he headed South Africa's chemical warfare programme, the Health Professions Council heard on Friday.

Former surgeon general Niel Knobel told the council he did not agree with the views of American medical ethics expert Steven Miles that Basson had violated various World Medical Association (WMA) declarations and regulations.

Basson faces four charges of unprofessional and unethical conduct.

The charges relate to his conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the country's chemical and biological warfare research programme for the defence force in the 1980s and early 1990s during the apartheid era.

He is accused of acting unethically in the 1980s by co-operating in the large-scale production of mandrax and cocaine, and weaponising teargas and supplying it to rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in the Angolan war.

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 suicide purposes.

Knobel said Basson had been deployed as a special forces soldier during that time and not a medical doctor.

"If he's deployed as a soldier and he carries a weapon, he's entitled to defend himself and his colleagues. In a combat situation he's part of a combat unit and there's no doctor-patient relationship," he said.

"If afterwards, one of his colleagues is wounded and he attends to him, then he's acting as a medical doctor."

He said the war in Angola was not conventional, as the opposing forces did not recognise international treaties and conventions.

"Circumstances might lead one to a situation where ethics in a time of war are not always the same as in a time of peace."

He said he did not regard it as unethical for a medical doctor to provide a soldier with a cyanide capsule under certain circumstances.

Knobel argued that medical conventions and ethics had changed with development of new technology.

"In our country it was totally illegal to perform an abortion. Today if a doctor in a state hospital refused to perform an abortion, he or she will probably be charged. Our ethical rules change as we go along," he said.

"I'm a member of the WMA, but we have to realise it's not a perfect world we live in. Attitudes change and the world we live in changes along with them."

He said the aim of the chemical warfare programme had always been to develop a defensive capability without using lethal or harmful substances.

He testified that the research material gathered under the programme was still regarded as a national asset and that former president Nelson Mandela had approved the safe storage of the material and the continuation of the defensive chemical warfare programme in 1997.

The hearing was postponed to September 25.

  • Tsietsi - 2012-03-30 22:49

    People like Basson shouldn't be in the limelight, not even in the tabloids, because they carry a lot of baggage with them and they take the country a lot of steps backwards concerning reconciliation.

      clivegoss - 2012-03-31 07:44

      Baggage ? What baggage ? This story, and that is what it is, is that one bored American Mr Miles is sticking his nose into the life and affairs of a citizen of this country, which has nothing to do with him at all. Why doesn't he focus on where the citizens of his country (the USA) is committing blatant murder on civilians, from which only the pony press benefits?

      Eric - 2012-03-31 09:07

      People like Mandela should not be in the limelight, not even in the tabloids, because they carry a lot of baggage with them ... Mandela is a terrorist with blood on his hands, from the Church Street bombing to the Shell House massacre. How's that? OOPS! Can I still say "Church Street" now that its name is being changed to reflect some dead terrorist?

      Themba - 2012-03-31 11:13

      Eric, have your head examined asap boet. Jy's mal

      Hugh - 2012-03-31 14:43

      Twaddle mate: You missed the part where this immoral mans work is still being kept and just may be used to protect and keep in power the same Aholes that wish to have him imprisoned

      Julie - 2012-04-01 09:57

      What about all the baggage blacks are carrying?????

  • Madulla - 2012-03-30 23:16

    If the HPCSA are obsessed in chasing after Basson. So, HPCSA, show us how impartial you are and also chase after and investigate Human Right abuses that took place in Angola. Yes, that's right, pursue the ANC with the same vigour and determination.

      Patiwe - 2012-03-30 23:37

      He is a doctor.

      Trudy - 2012-03-30 23:43

      Not the work of the HPCSA. HPCSA is a regulatory body for health professions. It is their job to make sure that we get quality health care, etc

      Julie - 2012-03-31 05:20

      I agree, Madulla, what about the Human Rights abuses when this inept ANC bunch of terrorists and murderers killed and maimed civilians as they were too afriad of the real military forces? what about the Human Rights of all the (mainly) Blacks that were inhumanly necklaced, suffering agonising deaths by slowly roasting to death with petrol-soaked tyres around their necks for merely being anti-ANC/Communist? What about Winnie Mandela who openly advocated on TV that this country would be liberated through the inhuman, savage, brutal process of 'necklacing?' Why is she not being continuously pesecuted over the brutal death of a child, Stompie Sepei (is the spelling correct?) The ANC terrorists and murderers have never recognised anyone else's human rights, have they? What about Mandela opening singing "Kill the Boere" along with Kasrils and others??? No-no, the ANC and liberal brigades consider themselves above the law - it's time the world gets to know more about these violators of human rights...

  • Oom - 2012-03-31 01:19

    Doctor-patient relationship,interesting.... There were none such relationship while he were developing such weapons, so he wasn't acting unethically.

  • bluzulu - 2012-03-31 06:52

    Former surgeon general Niel Knobel .....Another Collaborator

      Eric - 2012-03-31 09:09

      bluzulu - another terrorist? ;)

      Frank - 2012-03-31 09:46

      Basson did more for the well being of this country than the whole of the stupid NEC did as a collective. He saved a lot of lives and helped real people live a better life through his skill and commitment and this ANC induced witch hunt is pathetic! Go Wouter!

      Patiwe - 2012-03-31 11:57

      Bluzulu another one who gave orders to Dr Death.

      bluzulu - 2012-04-01 07:06


      bluzulu - 2012-04-01 07:44

      eeehhhh... Mr. Basson , just jump off your high horse and fall on your sword. No matter what you say, There is too much documented evidential facts against you, Go with some dignity(if any) and stop playing games.

  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-31 08:03

    "'s not a perfect world that we live in..." ...and there's always those overly sensitive and self-righteous pricks who'll always want to find something wrong that other's did even even knowing jack about the true nature of circumstances or outright ignoring them. Just as long as the can label someone as"unethical" or such, they're happy.

  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-31 08:03

    "'s not a perfect world that we live in..." ...and there's always those overly sensitive and self-righteous pricks who'll always want to find something wrong that other's did without even knowing jack about the true nature of circumstances or outright ignoring them. Just as long as the can label someone as"unethical" or such, they're happy.

  • Paddy - 2012-03-31 09:02

    I find it somewhat difficult to accept the two words "American" and "ethics" in the same sentence. Just who the hell do they think they are trying to push their idea of right and wrong onto the rest of the world?

  • Andrew - 2012-03-31 09:13

    To my mind this inquiry is a waste of money and productivity of people. Had these event taken place today it would be different and needed to be dealt with. The tear gas used today appears to be a product developed during that time and if it is so dangerous why is it still in use? To the American Mr Miles, I say go home Yank!!

      Klaus - 2012-03-31 15:07

      Mr Miles should / must investigate Agent Orange, widely used in Vietnam by his American Compatriots

  • johann.malan - 2012-03-31 09:26

    What a disappointment that someone like Niel Knobel can gloss over and justify breach of professional ethics. It is not up to us to change the ethical standards according to the situation we find ourselves in. If that were true, he would have to defend the actions of his colleagues, Josef Mengele, Carl Clauberg, Herta Oberheuser, Karl Brandt and the other Nazi Doctors, along with the inactions and lies of his colleagues involved with Steve Biko. Wouter Basson, like any other doctor, does not have the luxury of choosing when to act ethically and when not, whether he acted as a soldier, a doctor, or a snake oil purveyor (literally - ask him about his involvement with snake poisons!). When he qualified as a physician, he clothed himself with the robe of ethical responsibility. I dare Niel Knobel to dispute that!

  • Shirley - 2012-03-31 09:39

    This is a witch hunt! Its time people acted like adults and looked at the facts and accepted them for what they are! He was a soldier-doing his job,NOT a doctor with a waiting room full of patients who was cooking the stuff up in a back room at his surgery! There are many terrible acts that were committed by both sides and its high time people STOPPED the "selective" judgement and placed everone under the same umbrella of rules! Why the hell are Americans even testifying gere???? This is the Salem witch hunt all over!

      roger.pacey - 2012-03-31 14:58

      Bear in mind that he has been tried in a court of law and found not guilty of a wide range, if not all, crimes attributed to him. Dr Basson is a few years away from retirement age. I would guess that if the case were to go against him, he would just stop practising a few years early. Since the criminal case against him came to naught and, I presume, no complaints have been made against his conduct since he entered private practice (because this would undoubtedly have been used against him in this inquiry), the HSPCA wouldn't have saved anyone from potential harm even if they were to find against him. In practical terms, the outcome of the inquiry will have little effect on anyone, which gives the impression that the main motivation is political.

  • gailcarolynhayes - 2012-03-31 09:39

    The war against apartheid is over and has been for 20 years. The deeds for which Basson is being constantly harangued happened 30 years ago while SA was at war and he was a soldier who had to obey orders or face treason charges. It is ironic that this incredibly skilled man has remained in SA and faced these charges the costs of which must run into millions of Rand while continuing to serve his countrymen and SAVE lives. Imagine what good could have been achieved with the money being spent on persecuting one man whom our country needs and who has stayed on to serve those very people he is accused of deliberately and with malice aforethought to have been previously desirous of killing. How many medical personnel are we missing because they have taken their newly acquired lesser skills to other countries because of more lucrative lifestyles free of governmental interference and the likelihood of crime? These are nurses and doctors who are now the advantaged and yet they leave for freezing climates because of maladministration by ANC officials who drive around in top range vehicles and fail to supply care to their own people. When they need medical care to whom do they turn? Do they enter govt hospitals for treatment and why not? Formerly functional hospitals have become run down cesspits which can't afford to supply dignity never mind medical care to their own voters because they are squandering money on pursuing WB for something which happened 30 years ago. Makes you think.

      curbylee1 - 2012-03-31 13:44

      The war against apartheid is over ?????????? Don't think so mam...Look at the protests, look at the fraud....look at this country...The war has just started....

  • TYRELL153 - 2012-03-31 11:11

    I think that if you people had a brain you would be more interested in what kind of a biological weapon they were working on. The program employed over 200 international scientist who brought their work from other weapons programs. Now if you believe the some total of the evil they produced over the last 70years was a cocktail of rat poison and sleeping pills then you are an idiot. This court case does not address the gravity of the situation, I don't think anyone in that court room has a cooking clue what they are dealing with.

  • curbylee1 - 2012-03-31 13:40

    Why can't South Africans debate and sop dragging people into discussions that has nothing to do with it. Cmon all, grow up and see the light. I do believe this man has "BIG" issues to hide. He is currently hiding behind his whitt and intelligence, for which I must congratulate him. I do not think he'll be behind bars or anything, for he's a bit too clever, and what plays in his hand is history or the lack thereof. I hope for this country they either grab his life from him or give it back and move on. It is going to take a Sherlock to corner this one....Don't think we have what it takes do be that. Let's see it unfold and wait on the verdict.... Where Mandela is mentioned in this discussion, I think those who condemn him for what he done, is utterly stupid or re-tarted for that matter. Mandela is my IDOL, he's not perfect and never will be...but he has done a hell of a lot for this back-stepping country. Viva Madiba....

  • donald.perumal - 2012-03-31 21:22

    A Doctor providing cyanide to a soldier can be likened to assisted suicide,therefore Basson should be found guilty.Anyway he is a rat and the only reason Mandella called on him is because,Basson had to clean up the Apartheid sh=t he created,

  • Julie - 2012-04-01 09:59

    Well said Eric! I agree 100% with you!

  • HennsTooth - 2012-04-01 10:36

    nyone who has ever been exposed to Mandrax and survived will tell you it is the most debilitating and addictive substance around (barring Welconal - another purely South African invention). Only in SA has it ever been a problem, having been foisted on the Coloured and Indian communities who were not directly legislated against under apartheid. Basson should be held accountable for the brilliant work he did whilst "just following orders" in the same way that the Nazi doctors who developed Zyclon B poison gas were held accountable. Of course this brings up another kettle of fish, specifically the continued availability of Mandrax in the locations and communities of the Cape Flats, Hillbrow and Durban. The gang violence that permeates these areas is legendary and fuelled by the profits and addictions from this poison (another argument could compare the governments relationship with cigarettes, but lets leave that for another time). Is the new government maintaining this evil? Where do they get the stuff and why is this most vicious legacy of the old regime not being addressed? Bassson was also once arrested with 50 000 ecstacy tablets btw, just in case you thought those were safe.

  • HennsTooth - 2012-04-01 10:44

    And, since we're on the topic, I looked up the word SKYNHEILIG the other day (means sanctimonious or hypocritical if you're interested) and was directed to a long discussion on the English use of poison on Afrikaaners in concentration camps during the Anglo war against SA. The debate raged about recompense for murder, and eddied around getting on with life for the living. It took me a while to realize that it was hypocritical for people who were actively involved in Apartheid nastiness to bemoan what happened to their people 50 years earlier... The `struggle' was a war between 2 sides, both carry guilt for wrong doing, so let those with no guilt cast the first stone. In the mean time, the government in power right now should be doing something about the poisons that are still available to their people, instead of collecting a percentage from the pain being caused on an ongoing basis.

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