When the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) first laid charges of unprofessional conduct against a young pro-life doctor, Dr Jacques de Vos, in 2017 his attorney requested clarity about the charges — but two years later he is still awaiting documents needed to defend the case.
The case, against De Vos, 32, who has effectively been barred from practising medicine for the past two years because of the charges, was finally set to be heard on Tuesday this week, but despite repeated requests for further particulars none were available when the hearing convened, said Martus de Wet, attorney for the former military hospital doctor.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the prosecution agreed to provide all the documents required by the defence by the end of Friday this week and the hearing was postponed to October 3 and 4 at the Newlands Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town, he said. The hearing will be open to the public and media.
The charges against De Vos relate to allegations, that while he was an intern at 2 Military Hospital, Cape Town, he prevented a woman from having an abortion, gave her unscientific advice (that abortion is the killing of an unborn human being), that he distributed certain brochures, and that he tried to share his faith with others.
Still waiting for information
Commenting on the lack of detail available on the allegations against his client, De Wet said: “We are still waiting for information on what brochure, and when and to whom it was distributed because it is very, very vague. We just know that it was during 2015.”
“The fourth charge is equally vague — that he tried to tell others — either patients, colleagues and the public — about his faith.
“They are trying to say he tried to force his religious views on the patient but our case will definitely be that all patients are entitled to have all the facts before they make a decision. And what is important is they must have information regarding the pros and cons of having an abortion for the mother herself and obviously for the other patient, which is the unborn child.
“In medicine it’s an accepted fact that the doctor has an ethical duty to both the mother and the unborn child — that’s why you can’t take certain medication in the early stages of pregnancy. That’s all he did at all times and there was no time when he prevented anybody from having an abortion,” said De Wet.
He said he had no problem with somebody being charged, provided that the law was allowed to run its course and the person facing charges had an opportunity to present their case before a fair panel.
“But what has been happening here is that Dr De Vos has been barred from practising medicine for the last two years pending his chance to be heard.
“The case was first set down for 2017 — and we’ve been asking for clarity regarding the charges: we’ve asked them to tell us who is the patient. Because you need to be able to answer in a court of law, when, where, who and how, so that you know what to prepare for.
“And at the time they were jumping around between saying it [the alleged unprofessional conduct] happened in 2006 and then it happened in 2015 then 2016 then back at 2015 at some stage. And somewhere along that line he had to come and appear before a panel and he didn’t know what case to meet.”
De Wet said after he pushed for particulars at that time he was informed that the case had been postponed. On objecting that it was not lawful for one party to postpone the matter he was informed that the charges against De Vos had been withdrawn.
Since De Vos had completed his intern work and was no longer facing any charge they asked 2 Military Hospital to sign off his internship. Instead, all of the charges were reinstated and the case was set down for this week.
De Wet said De Vos is a member of Doctors for Life International (DFL), a pro-life medical organisation which will assist his defence by providing relevant expert medical evidence. Adv Keith Matthee SC and the rest of the legal team are acting pro bono for the defence.
The plight of the young doctor was disclosed by DFL in a press release last Friday, resulting in considerable support for De Vos on social media and from the ACDP. A petition calling on the HPCSA to “stop persecuting Dr Jacques de Vos for his pro-life views” has been published online and can be viewed here.