Respected paediatric surgeon set to stand trial for murder

The revered paediatric surgeon is accused of gross negligence leading to patient deaths.

Once revered paediatric surgeon and Wits University professor emeritus Peter Beale is now set to stand trial for murder in a watershed case that has thrust the culpability of doctors in South Africa to the fore.

Courtroom reckoning after 10-year-old death

Beale’s courtroom reckoning comes after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2019 moved to criminally charge him over the death of 10-year-old Zayyaan Sayed.

Since then, he has also been charged with culpable homicide over the death of 21-month-old Alissa Strydom.

Beale is due back in court on 16 January next year, but his case could be heard earlier if a date towards the end of the year is available.

In the run-up to his trial, Beale, who has previously denied wrongdoing, has been stripped of his right to operate, with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) recently confirming receipt of more than two dozen complaints against him.

Beale first found himself in the headlines in June 2019, when he featured in a News24 story detailing Lisa Strydom’s protracted search for answers in the wake of the death of her daughter, Alissa.

Routine surgery kills 21-month-old

Alissa died at Mediclinic Morningside three years prior, following what was supposed to be routine surgery to treat acid reflux, which Beale performed on her.

Then news broke of Sayed’s death, following the same surgery by the same surgeon at Netcare Park Lane Clinic in October 2019.

The HPCSA suspended Beale in December 2019. That same month, he and the anaesthetist he had been working with during Sayed’s surgery, Dr Abdulhay Munshi, were also criminally charged over the boy’s death.

Anaesthetist turns up dead

They appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on culpable homicide charges and were granted bail of R10 000 each.

Munshi, however, was killed in a hit-style shooting in Orange Grove in September 2020. No one has, as of yet, been arrested for his murder.

An eyewitness reportedly said that Dr Abdulhay Munshi’s car was rear-ended by a Mercedes-Benz.

As the doctor walked to the back of his car, a white man got out of the Mercedes, walked up to Dr Munshi and shot him several times.

A bullet hit him in the eye and another in the chest, two in the back and one under the arm. From the
crash to the shooting and the killer driving off, was about three minutes.

The main charge against Beale was in January changed to one of murder and an additional charge of culpable homicide over Strydom’s death was in February added to his indictment.

The HPCSA, via a Sunday Times report, also in February revealed it had removed Beale from its register, citing about 29 complaints.

ALSO READ: Dr Peter Beale announces retirement amid charges of culpable homicide

More cases may still come to light

The Citizen spoke to a number of parents who had lost children after Beale operated on them – some as long ago as 2011.

In one case, the HPCSA found Beale guilty of negligence and exposing a patient to harm but only insofar as he apparently used the services of an “unregistered person” for a procedure.

In the remainder, meanwhile, he was either cleared or found guilty only of relatively minor charges (such as “inappropriate or unprofessional” conduct) or there appeared to have been no investigation.

Regardless of the official findings, all the parents The Citizen spoke to still believed Beale had a hand in their children’s deaths.

Some questioned whether the lives lost over the years might have been spared had the authorities acted more decisively early on.

The HPCSA acknowledged receipt of a number of questions from The Citizen but had not responded by the time of publishing.

Beale maintains he put patients first

Beale, meanwhile, said: “I have always strived to provide the very best care for my patients, and would like to reiterate my condolences to the families of these patients.

“I wish to point out that some of the cases referred to have already been the subject of HPCSA review, following which I was found not guilty.

“Due to ongoing proceedings, I cannot comment any further. “However, I stand ready to assist fully in any investigation by relevant authorities into these matters.”

Members of the healthcare profession have rallied around Beale and his prosecution has attracted significant controversy from within their ranks.

Last year, a group of organisations, including the South African Medical Association, even wrote to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola asking for legislative reform to better protect healthcare practitioners. –

NOW READ: Culpable homicide case of Dr Peter Beale moved to High Court in February

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