No time or place to peddle non-truths

At a time such as this, medical professionals, especially those who hold positions of influence like Professor Glenda Gray must be mindful of the impact of their conduct and their utterances, the writer says.
At a time such as this, medical professionals, especially those who hold positions of influence like Professor Glenda Gray must be mindful of the impact of their conduct and their utterances, the writer says.
Image: GroundUp / South African Medical Research Council

It is inevitable and perhaps even welcome that in a time of crisis such as that which we are in, field experts at the forefront may differ in opinion.

However, such differences must be based on the interpretation of facts, aimed at enriching the public discourse in the interests of all.

The squabble between minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize and a member of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory team Prof Glenda Gray cannot go unchallenged.

In a recent interview with News24, Gray claimed that there were malnutrition cases at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academy Hospital, in Soweto, for the first time in decades.

This was strongly denied by the minister in a statement on Wednesday night in which Mkhize quoted admission statistics at the hospital and said Gray subsequently admitted that the claim was based on what she had heard from other colleagues.

Gray had also claimed that government ignored advice from scientists, questioning "why have experts if you don't care what they think?"

She said the lockdown strategy was not based on science and appeared as though someone had sucked the regulations out of their thumb.

Both claims were refuted by Mkhize who said not only were the claim false and unprofessional on the part of Gray but that they undermined the work of cabinet and the national command council in the fight against the current coronavirus.

Gray has subsequently stated that she had made comments in her personal capacity and was in fact not critical of the national lockdown.

Regardless, at a time such as this, medical professionals, especially those who hold positions of influence must be mindful of the impact of their conduct and their utterances.

Unlike ordinary citizens, the word of doctors such as Gray significantly influences how the rest of us assess the credibility of the fight against this pandemic.

Therefore while they have the right to publicly express their views, they also have a responsibility to ensure that those views are honestly held and based on scientific evidence, rather than casual anecdotal conversations.

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