Noakes's tweet 'was improper conduct'
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Cape Town - A Stellenbosch University psychiatrist and bioethics lecturer is of the opinion that Professor Tim Noakes should not have given medical advice on social media.
Professor Willem Pienaar was giving evidence in the hearing into the professional conduct of the sports scientist, who is facing a charge of unprofessional conduct for giving advice on Twitter.
Noakes advised the mother of a young baby on Twitter to wean her child on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (LCHF).
When the mother, Pippa Leenstra asked Noakes on Twitter last year what foods to wean her baby on, the UCT emeritus professor responded: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween (sic) into a LCHF.”
The response prompted the then-president of the Association of Dietetics SA, Claire Julsing-Strydom, to lodge a complaint with the Health Professions Council of SA.
Pienaar said that Noakes had given clinical advice without consultation to an unknown patient on first contact on open social media.
“He did not ask for age of baby, the health status of the baby.” Pienaar said it was his concern that no consultation had taken place.
He said that this could harm the medical profession. He said the potential of social media to give wide access to medical care was enormous. “It is like morphine - it is fantastic but it is very dangerous.”
Ajay Bhoopchand said Noakes had also supplied an ethical opinion which said that no harm had been done. Pienaar said he was grateful no harm had been done - but he remained concerned that other people may have taken the advice.
He said he did not doubt that Noakes believed in his science, but Pienaar said he felt that Noakes did not respect the rights of the patient to the best medical care.
Pienaar was at pains to tell the hearing that he was not an expert on the LCHF diet and could not comment on the science.
He said he felt that Noakes had been guilty of improper conduct and insufficient care for his patient, and that he believed a doctor-patient relationship had been established between them. That relationship was formed when a doctor makes an “affirmative action” in relation to a lay patient.
The hearing has been adjourned to 1.45pm when Pienaar will resume his evidence.