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Press release: Medical Protection welcomes judgement on culpable homicide conviction

23 July 2020

Medical Protection welcomes yesterday’s (21 July) Constitutional Court judgement to set aside the conviction and sentence of Dr Danie van der Walt for culpable homicide.

Dr van der Walt was found guilty of culpable homicide following the death of his patient in August 2005. Subsequent appeals were unsuccessful, however the recent Constitutional Court judgement found that Dr van der Walt’s trial rights had been infringed in the previous Magistrate’s Court judgement. The Constitutional Court handed down a judgement to set aside Dr van der Walt’s conviction and sentence for culpable homicide.

The case has now been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether Dr van der Walt will be re-arraigned.

Medical Protection has supported Dr van der Walt since 2006.

Dr Graham Howarth, Medical Protection Head of Medical Services – Africa, said:

“Medical Protection stands by its members, particularly when their rights have been infringed, and we welcome yesterday’s judgement to set aside Dr van der Walt’s conviction and sentence.

“We have supported Dr van der Walt throughout the legal process, including through Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) proceedings, a civil claim, an inquest, his criminal hearing and subsequent appeals through to the recent Constitutional Court judgement.

“The matter has now been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and we will continue to support Dr van der Walt should the need arise.

“Medical Protection has previously questioned culpable homicide law and its application in a healthcare setting. This judgement is a timely reminder that doctors work under considerable pressure, and this pressure is exacerbated for the entire profession whenever a doctor is erroneously charged with culpable homicide.”

END

Notes to editor

Case citation: Van der Walt v S [2020] ZACC 19. Case CCT 180/19. More information can be found online.

For press enquiries contact: Mike Bridge at E: mike.bridge@medicalprotection.org or T:+44(0)207 640 5167, M:+44 (0)7773 573303.

About MPS

Medical Protection is a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

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MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.