NPA moves to reassure concerned medical practitioners after Dr Munshi murder
Pretoria - Medical practitioners carrying out their duties within the confines of the law do not have to fear criminal prosecution, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Gauteng said on Saturday.
The NPA was responding to media reports regarding concerns raised by medical practitioners about the culpable homicide prosecution of Johannesburg anaesthetist Dr Abdulhay Munshi and paediatric surgeon Professor Peter Beale after they were blamed for the death of 10-year-old Zayyaan Sayed following a routine laparoscopic operation at the Netcare Park Lane Hospital in October last year.
Munshi was shot dead in an apparent hit while he was driving in Orange Grove in Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon. According to media reports, the charges were about to be dropped based on post-mortem evidence.
In its statement on Saturday, the NPA said that if it appeared that a medical practitioner may have acted in a manner that resulted in the negligent loss of life, the NPA was duty bound to take action with the aim of deciding whether or not criminal proceedings should be instituted against the practitioner.
"Subsequent to a criminal charge of medical negligence laid by the father of the deceased boy Zayyan Sayed in October 2019, the NPA, guided by section 179(2) of the Constitution of South Africa which empowers the NPA to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting criminal proceedings, enrolled a case of culpable homicide against two medical practitioners, namely Doctor Peter Beale and Doctor Abdulhay Munshi. This after assessing the case docket and establishing that there were reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution (a prima facie case)," the NPA said.
The decision to prosecute Beale and Munshi meant that there was no need to refer the matter for an inquest hearing. Section 59(1) and 59(2) of the Inquest Act provided that an inquest would be conducted in instances where criminal proceedings were not instituted and where a death had occurred and that such death was a result of unnatural causes.
“In this instance, the latter was not applicable. Furthermore, the NPA reiterates that the rights to equality before the law applies to every citizen within the borders of South Africa. It is therefore our view that if medical practitioners, in the execution of their duties, act within the confines of the law, then they do not have to fear criminal prosecution.
"Lastly, as per standard procedure, the prosecution will await to be furnished with the copy of the death certificate for Dr Munshi so that charges against him can be formally withdrawn in court. The case against Dr Beale continues and will be back in court on 16 November 2020," the NPA said.
- African News Agency (ANA), editing by Jacques Keet