Basson is guilty - HPCSA

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wouter basson nov 14

Independent Newspapers

Wouter Basson

Johannesburg - Apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson is guilty of unprofessional conduct, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) ruled on Wednesday.

"In the light of all the circumstances, the breaches amount to unprofessional conduct... the respondent is guilty of unprofessional conduct," HPCSA professional conduct committee chairman Prof Jannie Hugo said in Pretoria.

He said no medical doctor could claim ignorance of their expected professional behaviour.

"The Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine honestly, and its subsequent versions, are based on the principles of putting the interests of patients first and are accepted universally," Hugo said.

The six-year-long inquiry related to Basson's involvement in Project Coast, a secret biological and chemical warfare research project which violated international protocols and conventions between the 1980s and early 1990s. Basson, a cardiologist, was the project officer of Project Coast.

"During the 1980s, doctors in South Africa who remained true to their profession took a stance against military conscription. They also refused to declare to the police the identities of patients in their care, exactly on ethical grounds," said Hugo.

Basson had presented nine arguments at the inquiry in which he claimed he acted as a soldier and not a doctor, and that he was not aware of the relevant ethics.

He claimed the ethics in the 1980s were different from those of today. Hugo said the ethical norms of the 1980s were not significantly dissimilar to those applicable after 1990.

Mamelodi resident Lizzy Sefulo said she was satisfied with the guilty verdict.

"He is evil. I agree with the committee when they say as a doctor Basson was there to serve people, not kill them," she said.

Sefulo, 72, said her husband and three other anti-apartheid activists were drugged and tortured by security policemen in 1987. Their bodies were blown up in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana.

The inquiry was held to determine whether he acted unethically in the exercise of his duties as a chemical warfare expert. He was accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and teargas, of weaponising teargas, and of supplying it to Angola's Unita leader Jonas Savimbi.

He was accused of acting unethically by providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings, and by making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the High Court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct.

The HPCSA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to continue with an inquiry. The State appealed against this decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed.

The State then went to the Constitutional Court, but the case was dismissed in September 2005. - Sapa

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