Judgment reserved in Tim Noakes appeal

2018-02-23 21:42
Professor Tim Noakes (Nasief Manie, Netwerk24)

Professor Tim Noakes (Nasief Manie, Netwerk24)

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Pretoria – Following the conclusion of an appeal by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) against the not guilty verdict in favour of Professor Tim Noakes, his attorney Adam Pike has said he hopes this is the end of the misconduct complaint against his client.

Noakes was charged with misconduct after a complaint about him giving advice relating to his low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet to a mother on Twitter.

The mother's tweet read: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? (sic)"

READ: Tweet that landed Noakes in hot water 'scientifically correct' – lawyer

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."

Pike told News24 that the appeal had been concluded and that the appeal committee had reserved judgment. 

No doctor-patient relationship

"We are satisfied with how the appeal unfolded and have faith in the appeal committee. Hopefully, this is the end," said Pike.

During the three-day appeal, 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, told the appeal committee sitting in Pretoria on Thursday 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.
He further said that what Noakes said on Twitter was scientifically correct and that allegations of the potential harm of Noakes' statement were unfounded.

On Wednesday, Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand, for the pro forma complainant, told the appeal committee that the judgment made in favour of Noakes was an error and that some of the findings were nonsensical.

He said that Noakes did not have the expertise or the experience to give neonatal or infant-related advice.

Advice 'compatible with guidelines'

"As a health practitioner, he doesn't have the knowledge or the experience to give advice on this topic. If you want to give advice to neonates and infants, you need to have the experience and knowledge," Bhoopchand told the appeal committee.

Bhoopchand also said that the advice Noakes gave on a social media platform could potentially be dangerous to the public as it was his assertion that Noakes' medical advice was incorrect.

Speaking to News24 previously, Noakes said the advice he gave was entirely compatible with the country's dietary guidelines.

"You can't get away from that, the guidelines say you wean your children onto fish, meat, eggs, dairy and vegetables which is the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet," said Noakes.

Noakes also said if the HPCSA were to win the appeal, it would mean that all medical information imparted becomes medical advice, which would mean that medical professionals would have to be careful about giving out information because of the repercussions.  

"So, if a person asks me, 'should I stretch before I go to bed at night?', I can't answer that question because it's medical advice, because I didn't examine the patient, you might have a hamstring tear and then you go to bed and rupture your hamstring, then you charge me with damages. That's how stupid it is," said Noakes.

Case a 'turning point' for LCHF diet

Asked on Friday how he felt at the close of the appeal hearing, he said there was no credible argument against him.

"It is essentially impossible for the appeal committee to come to a decision that will overturn the disciplinary committee's decision," Noakes said.

"They (appeals committee) listened to two hours this morning where there is no evidence that what I said was dangerous and there was no doctor-patient relationship," he said.

"She (the mother) said 'there is too much information' which showed that this was not medical advice," he said.

Noakes said he was "really thankful" for all the support he had received throughout the case.

"There has been global support, more than 25 000 people signed a petition. I think that this case will ultimately be a turning point for the acceptance of this diet," he said.

Read more on:    tim noakes  |  courts  |  health

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