The disciplinary hearing of anti-abortion doctor Jacques de Vos by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) has been adjourned until 9 December. According to a Cape Argus report, arguments over technical details and medical ethics dominated the hearing for the second day, leading the HPCSA’s Professional Conduct Committee, chaired by Andrew Swart, to rule that the hearing would proceed on two of the four counts De Vos faced. The two counts relate to him advising a woman that her unborn child was a human being.
The committee said it would need extra time to deliberate on counts three and four, which are charges regarding De Vos’ personal views on abortion.
The report says De Vos’ legal team, led by senior counsel Keith Matthee, argued that the charges were unlawful, vague, and that the long delay and failure to provide information by the HPCSA had rendered the hearing unfair. Matthee said the defence would decide on the way forward after 9 December, including possibly applying to the High Court for a review. They had argued to have the matter struck from the roll, citing among other issues a three-year delay in bringing the matter to a hearing, vague charges, and no statement from the patient.
The defence insisted they had made efforts to obtain the prescribed documents needed for what they would deem a fair hearing since 2017.
The report says in response, prosecutor Zolile Gajana said the HPCSA had done everything by the book: ‘There’s no requirement that the patient must submit a statement.’ Gajana said in this case the patient’s mother had provided a statement and that was enough to charge De Vos.
The committee said the first two charges of professional misconduct would remain. However, a Daily Maverick report quotes Swart as saying, the committee reserved its views on the third and fourth charges as there was still information they needed to see before making their decision.
In the first charge, De Vos is accused of dissuading a patient from terminating her pregnancy in 2016 when he was at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town. In the second charge, De Vos is accused of failing to respect the patient’s autonomy.
The report says before the committee adjourned to discuss their final decision, there seemed to be confusion as to whether Gajana was still pursuing charges three and four. The third charge accuses De Vos of distributing pamphlets that imposed his religious beliefs at the hospital on colleagues, patients and members of the public, it further accuses him of attempting to influence his colleagues to adopt his views by sending them text messages.
The fourth charge accuses De Vos of failing to remain objective when advocating for contraceptives and that he did not act in the patient’s best interest.
Swart said he was under the impression that counts three and four were being abandoned.Cape Argus report (subscription needed) Daily Maverick report
See alsoBeing a doctor is a mug's game in SA