The gunning down of anaesthetist Dr Abdulhay Munshi, who was facing a charge of culpable homicide after a patient’s death, besides raising the spectre of vigilante justice, has caused major concern in the medical profession, with doctors now in fear of their lives for doing their job.
Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) president Dr Kgosi Letlape told Chris Barron in the So Many Questions feature in the Sunday Times the profession was concerned that a professional act could be dealt with as a criminal act because of an unfavourable outcome. ‘If doctors face the prospect of being criminally charged despite acting professionally, because a life has been lost, that is a concern.
“Because it means that every day we are practising at our own risk even if we act with the utmost integrity and professionalism,” Letlape said. Asked whether he could see why families might feel their only option is to lay a criminal charge, he responded: “We’re not saying they have no right to lay criminal complaints. We’re saying there is prescription in law in terms of how such matters, where there is a procedural death, should be handled. We’re asking the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) why those provisions in our law were not used. We are baffled that a matter that was screaming ‘inquest, inquest’ was not handled in that manner.”
A group of health-care professionals have, meanwhile, warned of the “destruction” of a functional health system in the country should the persecution of doctors without following due process continue, reports The Times.
In March, the doctors wrote letters to the Justice Department of justice and Director of Public Prosecutions, the minister and Health Department, facility groups through the Hospital Association of SA and Day Hospital Association of SA, and the HPCSA, the statutory controlling body for health-care workers. They copied in the presidency.
Among other things, their letter spoke about their unhappiness with what they described as a lack of due process followed in the arrest of the two specialists.
“The warrants of arrest were issued prior to the initiation of any inquiry or inquest by either the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) or the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP),” the group said in a statement published last week, in which the letters were attached.
The doctors said laws and mechanisms were already in place for an inquest into any medical complication in an expeditious manner.
They said the majority of functional health-care systems globally have established procedures and mechanisms to ensure no medical professional reaches criminal prosecution without clear evidence of reckless negligence.
They called on the citizens and the media to hold public structures to account by demanding answerability, rapid action and a mandated procedural solution.
So Many Questions in the Sunday Times (subscription needed)
Full report in The Times
SEE ALSOMunshi murder: Doctor groups call for government action
Murder of Munshi: HPCSA calls on government not to ‘criminalise medicine’
Munshi: Reflecting on a tragedy
Murder of charged anaesthetist brings pressure for legislative change
Prosecuting healthcare professionals for culpable homicide – who benefits?