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

2018-02-22 18:45
Professor Tim Noakes. (Pic: BizNews)

Professor Tim Noakes. (Pic: BizNews)

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Pretoria – The tweet that landed Professor Tim Noakes in hot water was scientifically correct and could cause no potential harm, an appeal committee heard on Thursday.

An independent appeal committee is currently hearing an appeal by the Health Professions Council of South Africa's (HPCSA) against the not guilty verdict in favour of Noakes.

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)"

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."

Advocate Michael Van der Nest SC, for Noakes, told the appeal committee sitting in Pretoria 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.

'Scientific opinion, not a medical consultation'

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

"Any doctor, any scientist is allowed to express a view."

Van der Nest said that Twitter was a public forum where people read and consume information and that Noakes had shared information which was no different than writing a book which expresses an opinion.

ALSO READ: Noakes brings out tell-all book on Banting hearing

"This is someone that is expressing a scientific opinion and not a medical consultation."

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

He said that there was "huge evidence" that not only showed the absence of harm, but proved how good the LCHF diet is.

No expertise or experience

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.

"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, 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.

The appeal hearing is expected to continue on Friday.

Read more on:    tim noakes  |  healthcare

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