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Anti-abortion doctor saga: HPCSA’s inability to finalise matter concerning

Medical professionals Anita Kleinsmidt and Melany Hendricks respond to a previous article published in MedicalBrief, pointing out what they believe to be a failing on the part of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) in its handling of the matter.

They write:

We write in response to the MedicalBrief article of 13 April 2022, ‘After 5 years and a failed HPCSA disciplinary, anti-abortion doctor can complete training’. This article describes an intern who allegedly attempted to dissuade a pregnant woman from having an abortion. Your article did not mention the HPCSA’s ethical guidelines and the legal requirement of non-directive counselling for women seeking abortions. Note also, that the HPCSA does not need a complainant in order to investigate professional conduct.

The HPCSA General Ethical Guidelines for Reproductive Health state that ‘Practitioners do not have the right to impose their religious or cultural convictions regarding abortion on those whose attitudes are different’.

Section 4 of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act states ‘The State shall promote the provision of non-mandatory and non-directive counselling, before and after the termination of a pregnancy’.

What should doctors do if they have qualms about abortion? ‘The client must be respectfully referred to a colleague who is willing to assist the client in obtaining the service … nor should a health care worker subordinate a patient’s religious convictions to his/her own’. (W Cape Policy on TOP, 2016). The Western Cape Policy has since been superseded in 2020 by a National Clinical Guideline on Implementation of the CTOP Act which states that ‘only the direct TOP provider can refuse care … As such a direct TOP provider who refuses care based on personal beliefs must refer the individual to a colleague or facility that is able to offer such services’. The refuser ‘must still explain their refusal to the individual in a manner that is non-judgmental and does not stigmatise’.

It is concerning that in five years, the HPCSA was unable to finalise a matter dealing with professional conduct that is covered by its own ethical guidelines on reproductive health.

Yours sincerely,

Anita Kleinsmidt (attorney) & Melany Hendricks (clinical psychologist)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

After 5 years and a failed HPCSA disciplinary, anti-abortion doctor can complete training

 

Anti-abortion doctor asks High Court to order HPCSA to hold his disciplinary hearing

 

HPCSA's 3-year disciplinary action against anti-abortion doctor collapses

 

 

 

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