Tampering claims hit Noakes inquiry

THE Health Professions Council of South Africa's (HPCSA) professional conduct committee chair, Joan Adams, says pages of her case documents were ripped out at the inquiry into Professor Tim Noakes’s professional conduct.

After returning from a lunch break, an agitated Adams said her documents had been tampered with.

She asked the first group of legal representatives entering the room from that point on to be “vigilant”.

“We don’t want documents disappearing or being ripped out of bundles. My documents were tampered with during the lunch hour and there may have been one or two other documents tampered with,” she said.

Members of the media and public were not to look at or tamper with any documentation, Adams said.

Noakes, who has 77 000 Twitter followers, is defending himself at the HPCSA inquiry into his professional conduct.

He has been accused of 
acting unprofessionally by advising Pippa Leenstra to wean her baby onto a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF). Leenstra tweeted him and nutritional therapist Sally-Ann Creed, The Real Meal Revolution co-author, to ask if the LCHF Banting diet was safe for babies of breast-
feeding mothers.

Noakes replied on Twitter: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to wean baby on to LCHF.”

The tweet spurred over 500 responses, but under cross-examination yesterday, Noakes said Twitter is a self-correcting forum and a space for other experts to challenge him, enabling his followers to decide to follow his advice or not.

Noakes also said he was not conducting a medical consultation, but responded as a scientist to the tweet and that social media complements medicine and doctor-patient relations, and does not replace it. 
“Social media is not replacing doctor-patient relations.”

He added that Leenstra had full access to medical services and abundant advice from other health practitioners.

“We have to educate people today not to be led by the 
opinion of one or two. It is up to each of us to make decisions on the basis of the best possible evidence.”

HPCSA advocate Ajay Bhoopchand said Twitter posed limitations when it came to the exchange of medical advice a health practitioner can communicate with users and, in this case, Noakes’ advice created confusion.

Bhoopchand questioned Noakes's expertise on giving advice about infant and neonatal care.

“I don’t see myself as a doctor, I see myself as a scientist, giving scientific information. There is no one better able in SA to talk about the LCHF diet," Noakes replied.