News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
20 Jan 2018
8:36 am

‘Dr Death’ challenging court ruling

Ilse de Lange

A professional conduct committee of the HPCSA in 2013 found Dr Basson guilty of unprofessional and unethical conduct.

Jaap Cilliers, legal counsel for apartheid-era warfare chemical expert Dr Wouter Basson, is seen outside the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday, 21 January 2015. Basson secured an interdict on stopping his hearing at the HPCSA offices in Pretoria.The cardiologist wants information on the HPCSA's professional conduct committee's chairman Prof Jannie Hugo and Prof Eddie Mahlangu. He wants to determine if they are members of any organisations that endorsed a petition calling for his removal from the register of medical practitioners. Basson wants Hugo and Mahlangu to be prohibited from proceeding with the sentencing pending finalisation of their recusal application. The HPCSA inquiry was held to determine whether Basson acted unethically during his work on the apartheid government's chemical and biological weapons project, Project Coast, during the 1980s and early 1990s. In his defence, Basson claimed he acted as a soldier and not a doctor. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Cape Town cardiologist Dr Wouter Basson may go ahead with a review application in the High Court in Pretoria which, if successful, could result in his disciplinary hearing and conviction of unethical conduct before the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) being set aside.

A professional conduct committee of the HPCSA in 2013 found Dr Basson guilty of unprofessional and unethical conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme in the 1980s.

The committee was hearing evidence in aggravation of sentence in 2015 when Basson applied for the recusal of the the chairperson, Prof Jannie Hugo, and committee member Prof Eddie Mhlanga, claiming there was a clear perception that they were biased against him from the start of the hearing.

One of his complaints was that Hugo failed to reveal that he was a member of or associated with organisations which signed petitions calling for Basson’s removal from the medical roll. When the committee members refused to recuse themselves and continued hearing evidence in aggravation in Basson’s absence, he launched a review application in the High Court in Pretoria.

Basson, nicknamed “Dr Death”, turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) after the high court in April 2016 rejected his review application, saying he had not exhausted his internal remedies and should have lodged an internal appeal.

The SCA this week set aside the high court’s ruling and referred Basson’s application back to the high court to decide on the review. Judge Jeremiah Shongwe said if it was found that Hugo and Mhlanga ought to have recused themselves, the proceedings before the committee would be nullified.

-Ilse de Lange


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