Public and media interest in the health and wellbeing of high-profile figures is not surprising. In this article we look at the contrasting experiences of two South African health ministers when it came to the confidentiality of their medical conditions.
In 2007, the late health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was admitted to the Johannesburg Hospital, suffering from anaemia and pleural effusion. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang later underwent a liver transplant. The stated cause was autoimmune hepatitis with portal hypertension, but the transplant was surrounded by accusations of heavy drinking. That these details made it into the public domain meant Dr Tshabalala-Msimang’s right to confidentiality had been breached.
Fast forward to August 2013. Current health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi was admitted to Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria, for an undisclosed procedure. His spokesperson confirmed to the media that Dr Motsoaledi had been admitted, but declined to give the reason – citing doctor–patient confidentiality.