In Practice

Is there a legal and ethical duty on public sector doctors whose complaints to hospital administrators have been ignored to inform the public about harm to child patients due to intentional maladministration, negligence or indifference at the local and pr

D J McQuoid-Mason

Abstract


The case involving Dr Tim De Maayer in Gauteng Province, South Africa (SA), raises the question whether there is a legal and ethical duty on public sector doctors whose complaints to hospital administrators have been ignored, to inform the public about harm to child patients due to intentional maladministration, negligence or indifference by the local and provincial authorities. An analysis of the SA Constitution, the National Health Act No. 61 of 1993, the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005, the Health Professions Act No. 56 of 1974 and the Rules and Guidelines of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) established in terms of the Health Professions Act indicates that Dr De Maayer acted both legally and ethically to protect the child patients at Rahima Moosa Hospital. As the complaints of harm caused to the patients because of conditions in the hospital were raised three times with the official functionaries concerned, and ignored by them, he was fully justified to try other measures to protect the patients. It seems that he hoped that by bringing the conditions at the hospital to the attention of the media, the public reaction would be such as to pressurise the administrators to redress the situation. The irony is that the officials who sought to discipline him were themselves guilty of violating the Constitution, the National Health Act and the Children’s Act, and should be disciplined. Furthermore, if they are registered with the HPCSA, they should be reported and disciplined for violating the HPCSA’s Ethical Rules of Conduct and its Ethical Guidelines on good practice.

Author's affiliations

D J McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Keywords

Public sector doctors; Harm to child patients; Constitutional duties; National Health Act duties; Children's Act duties; HPCSA Rules and Guidelines

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 0;0(0):.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-06-21
Date published: 2022-06-21

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