'Dr Death' approaches High Court to halt sentencing proceedings

JANUARY 19, 2015

Former chemical and biological weapons expert, Dr Wouter Basson, on Monday said that he will approach the High Court in Pretoria to halt sentence proceedings at the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that started on Monday.

This is after it emerged that the chairperson of the hearing, Jannie Hugo, is a member of an organisation calling for the doctor to be removed from the roll.

Basson’s advocate, Jaap Cilliers, said that; “It appears from what you have already said that you’re indeed a member of at least one of the organisations who have put evidence before you, that you are a member of agitating for the removal of Doctor Basson.”

However, a medical ethics expert maintains that while Basson may be a good cardiologist, his unethical conduct during the apartheid era is sufficient to warrant him being struck from the roll.

Bioethicist professor, Doctor Marc Blockman, says; “We both have two obligations, one is to do our job well and the other is to morally uphold the ethical considerations. They go hand in hand, you can’t do one well and the other not well at all and expect that to balance out.”

Dr Basson, dubbed Dr Death by the press, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the HPCSA in December 2013, following a six-year long inquiry. Hugo ruled that Basson contravened international protocols and conventions.

The inquiry related to Basson's involvement in Project Coast in the 1980s and early 1990s. Project Coast secretly researched chemical and biological warfare in violation of the international Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention agreement. He allegedly recruited about 200 researchers from around the world for the project and received annual funds equivalent to US$10 million.

Among the charges of unethical conduct against him were providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings; and making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

Basson argued that he acted as a soldier and not a doctor. 

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