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KZN doctor face murder charge over patient’s death after surgery

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A KZN doctor has appeared in the Richards Bay magistrate’s court on a charge relating to the death of a 35-year-old patient who suffered complications and died after routine surgery.

The SA Private Practitioners Forum (SAPPF), Surgicom and the Association of Surgeons of SA on Wednesday condemned the arrest of the surgeon who was charged with murder on Friday.

SAPPF and Surgicom chair Philip Matley said the incident occurred in 2019 and was the subject of pending civil action and proceedings before the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA), but no finding had been determined.

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“The surgeon has always insisted the patient’s death, while unfortunate, was not due to any act or omission on his part,” he said.

Matley said murder implied the intentional and premeditated killing of another person and was not appropriate for the unexpected death of a patient after medical treatment.

“Deaths which occur post-surgical procedures require investigation in accordance with SA law, and if negligence can be proven, healthcare practitioners should face appropriate sanction.

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“However, if this arrest signals the intention of the department of public prosecutions to pursue medical professionals for alleged serious complications of treatment as criminal acts, the implications for healthcare practitioners are very serious. Few surgeons in this country will be willing to continue practicing if they face the risk of arrest for murder following the unexpected death of a patient.”

He said where it was necessary for healthcare practitioners to appear in court, their attendance could be secured by summons rather than arrest.

“We call upon the director of public prosecutions and the police service to withdraw the charges and allow the ongoing civil and HPCSA processes to continue to completion,” Matley said.

Last year, medics wrote to justice minister Ronald Lamola asking that he permit a review into laws on culpable homicide where doctors are concerned.

In recent years, several doctors have been dragged to courts after fatalities or injuries of their patients.

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In Emalahleni, a gynaecologist served time behind bars after a patient died shortly after giving birth, reportedly due to difficulties experienced during the birth. Last year, Dr Danie van der Walt said his and other incidents involving doctors could be detrimental to the medical profession in SA. – TimesLIVE

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