News | South Africa | Health
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) last year announced it was withdrawing misconduct charges it had brought against an intern doctor accused of having tried talking a patient out of having an abortion, but the doctor insists he still wants his proverbial day in court.
In 2017, Jacques De Vos – who was at the time completing his internship in the gynaecology department at Cape Town’s 2 Military Hospital – allegedly told a pregnant patient who was considering having an abortion that a foetus was a human being and likened abortion to murder.
The HPCSA subsequently brought charges of misconduct against him and in 2019, he pleaded not guilty. But last September, with proceedings still not having advanced much further than that, the council announced the woman at the heart of the case no longer wanted to pursue it and the charges were, as a result, being withdrawn.
De Vos, however, says it’s too late and that he is entitled to a verdict one way or the other. He has now launched a legal bid in the North Gauteng High Court to try and force the council’s hand and get his case set down again.
In his papers, De Vos argued that while proceedings have stalled he couldn’t get his internship signed off and this was causing him severe personal and financial prejudice.
“Without my internship being completed and my superiors confirming such completion, I cannot commence private practice,” he said.
“Until such time as the complaint is finally dispensed with, I am effectively being blocked from practising as a medical doctor. I am unemployed as a medical doctor and cannot practice under my own name or practice as a medical doctor at all currently.”
De Vos argued that neither the Health Professions Act – nor the regulations governing professional inquiries published thereunder – allowed the HPCSA to withdraw the charges against him, after he had pleaded to them.
“In terms of the rules of natural justice, I am entitled to be either convicted or acquitted on the charges to which I have pleaded,” he said further.
He also expressed concerns that the charges against him would be reinstated – as they had been in the past.
The HPCSA withdrew all the charges against De Vos once before, in 2018. But four months later, it reinstated them.
“Without the finalisation of the process before the Professional Conduct Committee (and the acquittal I believe that I will be entitled to), question marks will also remain concerning my professional integrity,” De Vos added.
HPCSA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said yesterday the council did intend on opposing De Vos’ bid.
“The HPCSA is preparing to file a notice of intention to defend,” she said.
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