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Anti-abortion doctor hit with fresh delay in disciplinary hearing

Jacques de Vos, centre, flanked by attorney Martus de Wet, advocate Keith Matthee and father Phillip de Vos (cream jacket) at the Health Professions Council of SA hearing on August 27 2019.
Jacques de Vos, centre, flanked by attorney Martus de Wet, advocate Keith Matthee and father Phillip de Vos (cream jacket) at the Health Professions Council of SA hearing on August 27 2019.
Image: Sipokazi Fokazi

An anti-abortion doctor facing a disciplinary hearing for unprofessional conduct will have to wait several more weeks to learn his fate.

Jacques de Vos has been prohibited from practising medicine pending his Health Professions Council of SA hearing in Cape Town.

The hearing, before a six-member committee, was due to begin on Wednesday but was postponed until the end of October.

De Vos, 32, allegedly told a mother who wanted an abortion that she would be a murderer if she went ahead. 

TimesLIVE understands that the chairperson of the disciplinary committee is no longer available on the scheduled dates due to “logistical issues which the respondent’s attorneys are aware of”.

But anti-abortion lobby group Doctors for Life claimed the HPCSA’s failure to provide the defence with crucial documents was behind the delay.

De Vos’s attorney, Martus de Wet, described the postponement as “very frustrating”, saying the outstanding information was supposed to be made available more than a year ago.

“The hearing was first scheduled for August 2018. Since the beginning of 2018 we have been asking for the information that we are entitled to by law,” he said.

“Instead of providing us with the information, the [prosecutor] just informed us that the matter has been removed from the roll. We argued that it is unlawful to remove it from the roll unilaterally. Then they withdrew the charges, only to reinstate them again after the initial date passed.”

More than three years after the alleged misconduct, said De Wet, “we still have nothing, and the hearing is about three weeks away”.

De Vos, who maintains that his views on abortion are based on science, is facing four charges, which include disrespecting his patient's dignity, accentuating his personal and religious beliefs over his patient's rights, distributing pamphlets at work about his beliefs and failing to remain objective.

De Wet said his client was frustrated for “being punished but denied the basis for it and an opportunity to answer”.

One of the defence witnesses will be Dr Christopher Warton, who taught anatomy, embryology and neuroscience to medical students at the University of Cape Town from the early 80s. He is expected to argue that life begins at fertilisation – “a time where genetic code is set and future physical characteristics are defined with precision”.

Warton will also argue 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 Wet said his client, who was diagnosed with a debilitating deep-vein thrombosis 11 years ago, which resulted in him using a wheelchair,  “is very frustrated” by the delays to his trial.

“On a personal note, I find this shocking in this constitutional dispensation where people have the right to a fair trial before being punished. His punishment being not able to practise for more than two years now. He has severe health challenges. It all aggravates the situation,” he said.

In August, De Vos told TimesLIVE: “It’s been a difficult time knowing that this has been hanging over my head ... not getting to conclusion.

“It’s been financially difficult because I couldn’t work as a doctor for two years. Delaying this has been to my detriment.

“The condition I have is worsening. Doing my community service now would be more difficult than if I had done it before. Any further delay means that it will be even more difficult for me in doing community service compared to people without disability.”


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