Doctors who work inside the law have nothing to fear – NPA

Doctors gather to protest against the killing of Dr Abdulhay Munshi.
Doctors gather to protest against the killing of Dr Abdulhay Munshi.
Azarrah Karrim, News24
  • The NPA says it is duty bound to take action against medical practitioners whose negligence may have resulted in the loss of life.
  • This comes after medical practitioners raised concerns that they could be targeted, following the murder of anaesthetist, Dr Abdulhay Munshi.
  • Munshi was shot dead in Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon and his killers are still at large.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says doctors who work within the law have nothing to fear, but the NPA is duty bound to take action against medical practitioners whose alleged negligence may result in the loss of life.

The NPA made the comments after medical practitioners raised concerns that they could be targeted, following the murder of anaesthetist, Dr Abdulhay Munshi.

Munshi was shot dead in Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon and his killers are still at large.

He was arrested last year on charges of culpable homicide along with co-accused paediatric surgeon Dr Peter Beale following the death of a 10-year-old boy shortly after an operation.

News24 previously reported that the case dismayed the medical community, which insisted there was due process to follow, instead of approaching the courts. Doctors said should the killing of doctors become the norm, they would be discouraged to take on tricky or complicated cases.

In response to these concerns, the NPA released a statement saying in the case of potential negligent loss of life, it is "duty bound to take action with the aim of deciding whether or not, criminal proceedings should be instituted against such a medical practitioner".

NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said a criminal charge of medical negligence was laid by the father of the deceased boy, Zayyan Sayed, in October 2019. The NPA assessed the case docket and established that there was a prima facie case. 

No need for inquest

"The NPA, guided by Section 179(2) of the Constitution of South Africa which empowers the NPA to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting criminal proceedings, enrolled a case of culpable homicide against two medical practitioners, namely, Doctor Peter Beale and Doctor Abdulhay Munshi," said Mjonondwane

The decision to prosecute Beale and Munshi meant that there was no need to refer the matter for an inquest hearing, she added.

By law, an inquest shall be conducted in instances where criminal proceedings are not instituted and where a death has occurred and that such death was a result of unnatural causes.

"In this instance, the latter is not applicable," said Mjonondwane.

"Furthermore, the NPA reiterates that the rights to equality before the law applies to every citizen within the borders of South Africa. It is therefore our view that, if medical practitioners, in the execution of their duties, act within the confines of the law, then they do not have to fear criminal prosecution."

Once the prosecution has been furnished with a copy of Munshi's death certificate, charges against him can be formally withdrawn in court. Beale will be back in court on 16 November.

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