Expert witness at pro-life doctor’s disciplinary hearing will say life begins at fertilisation

Dr Christopher Warton.

A senior lecturer in anatomy and embryology who will testify at the disciplinary hearing of pro-life doctor Jacques de Vos later this month is expected to argue that life begins at fertilisation “when genetic code is set and future physical characteristics are defined with precision”.

According to his expert summary, Dr Christopher Warton, who has taught anatomy, embryology and neuroscience to medical students at the University of Cape Town since the early 80s, will also tell the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that it is “entirely rational and reasonable for a medical practitioner to view a 19-week-old foetus as human life to which he must do good or do no harm”.

De Vos has been barred from practising medicine for more than two years while facing charges of unprofessional conduct for allegedly preventing a woman from having an abortion and giving her “unscientific” advice that abortion is the killing of an unborn person, while he was an intern at 2 Military Hospital, Cape Town, in 2017.

He was due to face the inquiry this week must wait another few weeks after the matter was postponed again — to October 28 to 30 at the Southern Sun Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town.

Doctors For Life International (DFL), of which De Vos is a member, says in a media statement released last weekend, that it is disturbed by the continuous delays in the hearing and the ongoing harm De Vos is suffering as a result of being stopped from practising medicine.

It says the HPCSA “prosecutor” failed to meet an August 30 deadline to provide De Vos’ legal team with documents it originally requested from the HPCSA in June 2018.

De Vos was first charged by the HPCSA to appear before a disciplinary inquiry in August 2018, says DFL. When his legal team asked for further particulars and clarification of the charges, the charges were withdrawn, only to be reinstated for August 2019. Then, only weeks before the hearing was to start the HPCSA “prosecutor” replaced the charges with completely new charges.

According to DFL, De Vos and his legal team have made numerous requests to the HPCSA to clarify the charges and provide the prescribed documents so that he can prepare for his hearing. The hearing was then scheduled to start on August 26, on which date the six-member disciplinary committee ordered the HPCSA “prosecutor” to provide the prescribed documents to De Vos’s legal team no later than August 30.

“This was not done, and despite several further requests for the documents, the HPCSA ‘prosecutor’ has failed to provide any further documents,” says DFL

Support for the young doctor has been expressed by more than 20 000 people who have signed an online petition on the CitizenGo platform, demanding that HPCSA stop its “persecution” of De Vos.

De Vos is being represented pro bono by Adv Keith Matthee SC and De Wet Wepener Attorneys. DFL is assisting the team with the necessary medical experts for the hearing. The hearing is open to the public.


  1. Sonia Odendaal

    The ongoing delays of the hearing smacks of purposely hammering Dr de Vos for his Biblical stance against abortion. If this is the case, shame on the HPCSA – may God hear our prayers and Dr D Vos be vindicated and allowed to continue his valuable practice. Our Christian faith and Biblical values are being attacked from many quarters.

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    The legality or otherwise of abortion stands or falls on whether an unborn baby is human or not. If human, abortion contravenes clause 11 of the Constitution: “Everyone has the right to life”. The religion of Secular Humanism starts with the desire to legalise abortion, and then argues backwards to say that a unborn baby is not a human being, an “everyone”. Every other legitimate science starts at the beginning and argues forwards. The onus is on the HPCSA to prove that a baby in the womb is not a human being, not for deVos to prove it is. I am the same “being” before birth as I am after birth. This whole debacle is an ideological issue, not a scientific issue. deVos and Warton are scientific. The HPCSA is ideological, and should be ashamed of itself.