My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
“The national working committee views these reports with grave concern, not merely because [they] violate an individual’s right to privacy, but because [they] affect the right of all South Africans to expect their medical information to remain confidential.”
But the privacy of the Minister is not really the issue. Surely the statement from the ANC should have disputed the accuracy of the claims made by the Sunday Times. The “character assassination” by the Sunday Times does not stem from the breach of the Minister’s medical privacy, but from seriously defamatory statements about her drinking habits and about the abuse of power and corruption by the Minister and her Doctors.
The only way the Minister, the doctors involved and the Hospital can restore their reputations is by instituting a defamation action against the Sunday Times. If the allegations are untrue, they will be able to sue the pants of the newspaper and probably get a pretty penny out of the deal.
If they fail to sue, the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn would be that the newspaper report was correct and that there was corruption involved in the liver transplant. If this happens, the Minister should be fired and the Doctors scrapped from the medical roll.
The Presidency has asked for evidence of wrongdoing before taking action against the Minister. All the proof it may need will be provided by the absence of a defamation suit. But of course, even then the President will not fire the Minister because he will look weak and disloyal if he does. This means he is now probably stuck with a Minister which may well prove to be a thief and drunk and an abuser of her power.
I give the Minister and her Doctors two weeks to institute defamation proceedings. If they fail to do so, I will assume that the story is true.