26 September 2011

Dr. Wouter Basson’s conduct was ‘in breach of medical protocols’

Dr Basson is once again defending himself against charges brought on by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for his ‘unethical conduct' whilst heading the chemical and biological warfare programme of the apartheid government during the 1980s and early ‘90s.

The programme, known as Project Coast, was tasked with the manufacture of toxic substances for use in attacks and assassinations of members belonging to anti-apartheid movements.

Basson was initially employed as personal physician to the then apartheid state president P. W. Botha before being hired by the state's Surgeon General to work for and form 7 Medical Battalion Group, a specialist unit of the South African Military Health Services.

It was during this time that Dr. Basson was involved in the manufacturing of toxic substances to kill or tame ‘the enemy' and he's said to have engineered viruses intended to only infect black people. It is further alleged that he provided security forces with cyanide capsules to help them commit suicide if captured and also provided certain drugs that would disorientate South African Defence Force (SANDF) prisoners.

Nine years ago he escaped charges relating to these actions which, then, included murder, conspiracy, fraud and drug possession. His legal team then succeeded in getting them declared unlawful - a decision that was dismissed by the Pretoria high court. He now faces the music yet again.

A United States medical ethics specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Steven Miles, delivered a testimony during the hearing in Pretoria, arguing that Dr. Basson's conduct contradicted medical ethics and was in breach of international medical protocols - a view shared by the HPCSA.These parties, mainly, want him barred from practicing medicine and his medical licence cancelled.

Dr. Miles said, "The ethical core of medicine is to promote health. Dr. Basson's work risked causing disabilities, deaths and permanent brain damage. There is a difference between the ethics of a soldier and those of a physician and Dr. Basson viewed himself as a soldier with the goal of war," retorted Miles, pointing out that Basson failed to draw the line between his military duties and the ethics of his profession.

"Medical ethics in a time of armed conflict are identical to medical ethics in a time of peace," added Miles, quoting from the World Medical Association's regulations.

Dr. Basson, who earned the resultant name of ‘Dr. Death', pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, arguing that he was merely doing his job and it is all in the past, the same stance he adopted during the initial trial. "I closed that chapter twenty years ago, all I want is to continue serving the country as a medical professional," he said.

Basson currently runs a cardiology practice in Durbanville, an upmarket suburb, north of Cape Town.

SAHA is in possession of materials relating to Dr. Wouter Basson in the following collections:

The Freedom of Information Programme Collection (AL2878)

The Chemical & Biological Warfare collection (AL2922)
The Sally Sealy collection (AL2924)

The Zapiro TRC collection (AL3129)