In Unfair Dismissal Case, Doctor Who Supported ARVs Stands Up for Hippocratic Oath Ethics

Cape Times (South Africa), October 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

In Unfair Dismissal Case, Doctor Who Supported ARVs Stands Up for Hippocratic Oath Ethics


BYLINE: Khopotso Bodibe

DOCTOR Malcolm Naude wants the government to recognise that doctors have the right to follow their consciences when treating patients and that they are guided by the Hippocratic Oath rather than changing government policy.

Naude is pursing a case of unfair dismissal against the Mpumalanga Health Department after being fired from his position as a medical officer at Rob Ferreira Hospital in 2001.

Naude believes he was fired for supporting a programme called the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Programme (Grip), which had started offering anti-retroviral medication to rape victims to reduce their risk of HIV infection.

"Doctors, no matter who they work for and what kind of environment they're in, should be able to make decisions that have their patients' best interests at heart," Naude said.

"If that's in contradiction to national policy or a regional whim, doctors should be able to make decisions that look after their patients and make sure that they have the best possible medical care."

His case, which has taken six years to get to the Labour Court, was postponed to December 6.

Naude's attorney, Dan Pretorius, said: "What we're looking for is an acknowledgement that doctors have to obey their own consciences; that doctors have ethical responsibilities; that doctors should put the interests of their patients first.

"When it comes to doctors, the main code of ethics is the ancient Hippocratic Oath. So far, we haven't managed to get the Department of Health to sign an acknowledgement to say this applies to doctors in state hospitals. That's a settlement that we've got and they haven't agreed to make that settlement."

The oath requires doctors to do no harm and act in the best interests of their patients.

While the Mpumalanga department has yet to respond to Naude's settlement offer, national Health Ministry spokesperson Sibane Mngadi said it did not pose a problem for the government.

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