The SA Medical Association (SAMA) has always held that the criminal justice system is poorly suited to adjudicating medical errors and adverse events in the healthcare sector. The recent increase in arrests and prosecution of doctors has been a disturbing development, that not only harms the profession, but ultimately threatens patient safety as well.
SAMA has been at the forefront of advocating for our members and the profession in this regard. We have supported affected doctors, published articles to educate and inform the public, hosted webinars, written to the relevant authorities and have held joint roundtables with important stakeholders to advocate for change. These efforts are bearing fruit.
Dr Mark Human, Chair of the Human Rights, Law and Ethics Committee notes, "SAMA has spearheaded the relentless championing of our members and the profession, fearlessly leading the charge for change. This is not only for medical doctors and for patients’ benefits, but for the whole medical profession.”
The South African Law Reform Commission have included ‘Project 152: Criminal Liability of Doctors on their investigation programme’. This is the most consequential step yet toward positive change and potential law reform.
SAMA will ensure that we assist the Law Reform Commission in their investigation and make submissions that will hopefully lead to a system that is less punitive and more conducive to learning from adverse events. The ultimate aim is a reduction of the legal process and an effective resolution for the patient and the doctor.
SAMA wishes to extend a special word of thanks to the Law Reform Commission for the tremendous work that they do, often with very stretched resources and to the Medical Protection Society, who have been a valuable partner in these efforts over the years.