Presiding over yesterday's SAMLA Presidential Presentation proceedings were Dr Herman Edeling (seated) and SAMLA chair, Judge Neels Claassen

In an unprecedented initiative to bring South Africa’s current medico-legal problems and consequences to the fore, the SA Medico-Legal Association (SAMLA) provided the platform for more than 40 concerned professionals to address State President Cyril Ramaphosa directly, “frankly and constructively” on pressing medico-legal issues at a conference centre in Johannesburg yesterday.

President Ramaphosa received a formal invitation from SAMLA to attend the event, but had to turn it down due to electioneering commitments.

Nonetheless, the proceedings, no less than 30 three-minute presentations on specific issues of concern, four expanded oral submissions, a panel discussion on funding and care for cerebral palsy and others living with disabilities, and culminating in a debate and ultimate resolution on the establishment of an independent multidisciplinary medico-legal authority with codes of professional conduct and disciplinary procedures, were video recorded for submission to the president’s office.

In its invitation to the president, SAMLA noted: “In the spirit of Thuma Mina we, a group of concerned South Africans and Professional Organisations, offer our collective expertise and goodwill to advise you on the medico-legal crisis in our country.

“Being acutely aware of the human suffering, loss of economic productivity and multi-billion rand financial losses, which are inflated by negligence, maladministration, unprofessional conduct and corruption, we propose to address you frankly and constructively on the following:

·         The RAF, Determination of Serious Injuries, HPCSA Appeal Tribunals and Litigation Practices that overburden our Courts of Law.

·         The RABS Bill – Cost Implications and Infringement of the Rights of Vulnerable Members of Society (particularly children, impoverished, illiterate and brain injured adults).

·         Motor Vehicle Crashes and Deaths on South African Roads.

·         Clinical Negligence by Healthcare Practitioners, with focus on Constructive Upstream

·         (prevention) and Downstream (resolution) Interventions.

·         The Benefits of Mediation compared to Litigation.

·         The South African Medico-Legal Coalition and establishment of a South African Medico-Legal Data Institute.

·         SAMLA Submissions to the Law Reform Commission.

·         Access to Courts and Establishment of Specialised Medical Courts.

·         Centres of Excellence for care of Children with Cerebral Palsy.

·         The Establishment of an Independent Multidisciplinary Regulatory Authority, with Codes of Professional Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.

·         The Substantial Body of Knowledge and Goodwill that has been Side-Lined by Government over the years.”

Presiding over yesterday’s proceedings were Judge Neels Claassen, retired judge, mediator and SAMLA chairperson, and Dr Herman Edeling. neurosurgeon, expert witness, mediator, and director, clinical negligence and mediation and faculty leader of SAMLA.

Road accidents and compensation for personal injuries, as well as clinical negligence and compensation for consequent harm, headlined the main issues addressed, while key participants included Dr/Adv Anton Van Den Bout. orthopaedic surgeon and founder of the original South African Medico-Legal Society, now SAMLA; Dr Henry Lerm. attorney, legal academic, Law Society of South Africa LEAD Lecturer, mediator and deputy chairperson (legal) of the SAMLA); Prof Gert Saayman, Head, Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Pretoria and SAMLA director; Ms Romany Sutherland. Attorney, Mediator, Western Cape Chairperson and Director, SAMLA; Prof Alex Van Den Heever. Chair Social Security Systems, Administration and Management Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand; Dr Chris Archer. Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Expert Witness, CEO of South African Private Practitioners Forum and Past Chairperson of the Gynaecology Management Group; and Prof Ethelwynn Stellenberg. Department of Nursing and Midwifery at Stellenbosch University, Board Member of the Office for Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) and SAMLA faculty member.

Also in attendance was Department of Health Director-General, Malebona Precious Matsoso.

*Specific reports from the SAMLA Presidential Presentations to follow on Med Brief Africa