Star denies having Shaik's medical records

The Star newspaper has denied being in possession of the medical records of Schabir Shaik.

This, after Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) expressed alarm on Wednesday at what it termed the media’s “violation” of patient confidentiality.

“We would like to stress that we are not in possession of Mr Shaik’s medical records as implied by the HPCSA statement,” the Star‘s editor Moegsien Williams said in a statement.

“The details of Mr Shaik’s medical condition [have] been in the public domain for some time, including information released by members of Mr Shaik’s family in several media interviews over the years,” he said.

The HPCSA said earlier on Wednesday that it had noted with “horror and dismay” media articles indicating that the press had confidential medical reports violating patient confidentiality.

This was not only unprofessional, but ran contrary to the country’s Constitution and undermined the investigative process embarked upon by the HPCSA, its registrar Boyce Mkhize said in a statement.

“The [HPCSA] statement was issued on the day that the Star carried the results of its two-week investigation into Mr Schabir Shaik’s medical parole,” said Williams.

“The Star‘s news report stated clearly it was in possession of the Durban-Westville parole board’s report on its decision to release Schabir Shaik,” he said.

In the article, headlined ‘These are the doctors who freed Shaik,’ the Star referred to the reports of several doctors who treated the
convicted fraudster.

Shaik, who is African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma’s former financial adviser, was sent to prison in November 2006, but was released on medical parole on March 3, less than three years into his 15-year sentence. He spent much of his sentence in hospital.

Prison rights bodies have asked why he was released when so many HIV/Aids-infected prisoners remain behind bars and are not released on medical parole.

The HPCSA is investigating the ethical and professional conduct of the doctors who compiled the reports, which were presented to the parole board in its hearing of the Shaik matter, in response to a formal complaint by the Democratic Alliance.

“The practice of medicine is founded on a relationship of trust between practitioners and patients, therefore information pertaining a patient’s ailments or medical condition cannot be divulged without the patient’s consent,” Mkhize said on Wednesday.

“We accordingly urge restraint from the media until such time as the HPCSA issues a media statement with regards to its findings ...,” he said.

In August 2007, the then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has since been appointed Minister in the Presidency, went to court to recover her medical records from the Sunday Times.

She did so after the newspaper published a story detailing her alleged drinking habits during a stay in a Cape Town hospital two years previously.

The High Court in Johannesburg ordered that the records be returned to the Cape Town Medi-Clinic and that all medical records on journalists’ laptops and computers be deleted, but that their personal notes were not affected.

The court refused a request by Tshabalala-Msimang to order the newspaper to stop commenting on or publishing information regarding her medical records.

Johannesburg High Court Judge Mohamed Jajbhay found that the publication of the unlawfully obtained, controversial information was “capable of contributing to a debate in our democratic society relating to a politician in the exercise of her functions”.

“Indeed, in this matter, the personality involved, as well as her status, establishes her newsworthiness.
Here, we are dealing with a person who enjoys a high position in the eyes of the public and it is the very same public that craves attention in respect of the information that is in the hands of the Sunday Times,” Jajbhay ruled.—Sapa

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