Following the arrest and court appearance of two Johannesburg doctors – paediatric surgeon Peter Beale (73) and anaesthetist Abdulhay Munshi (56) – who were accused of medical negligence – some doctors are having second thoughts about performing intricate, lifesaving surgical procedures.

That’s according to a report in the Sunday Tribune, which notes that 10-year-old Zayyaan Sayed’s death resulted in Munshi and Beale facing culpable homicide charges.

Netcare has since suspended the doctors from practising at its facilities. The doctors appeared at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on 17 December and were given R10 000 bail each. The matter will resume in March.

Although sympathising with the family, many were nevertheless critical of the NPA’s failure to investigate the alleged acts of negligence before their arrests.

Durban-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rinesh Chetty has started a petition that spoke out against how the matter was handled. By the weekend it had more than 46 000 signatures from local and overseas supporters. Section 3.2 of the Inquest Act calls for medical experts to ascertain the exact cause of Zayyaan’s death. Chetty said he and other medics couldn’t understand why the Inquest Act was ignored prior to the arrests.

‘I have never seen other professionals treated like that, even if they were proven criminals.’ Chetty said that the incident affected doctors almost immediately.

‘Literally, the next day there were doctors complaining, asking who will be next to face criminal charges.’

Chetty said he believed this precedent-setting arrest would see a change in patients’ expectations.

‘Patients and their families will now expect police to arrest doctors without an inquest being held whenever they suffer a loss,’ Chetty is quoted as saying in the Sunday Tribune report. Doctors also pointed out ‘patients’ medical costs could rocket because doctors, ‘out of the fear of missing something, will explore every possible medical option.’

Dr Anil Bramdev, secretary of the KZN Specialist Network, said his organisation was outraged by the handling of the matter.

He said medical negligence shouldn’t be handled like a ‘common crime’ and required peer review. He said there was a shortage of specialist doctors and already some practitioners were considering opportunities elsewhere.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, head of the SA Medical Association, said that their body required the HPCSA to stipulate mediation processes between the families and doctors immediately when such incidents occurred. Coetzee said had there been mediation between Zaayyan’s family and doctors it could have prevented the controversial arrests.

Spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane insisted the NPA had a prima facie case against both doctors, hence the matter was enrolled for criminal proceedings.

‘Prosecutorial decisions are informed by what is contained in the docket. Doctors are not immune to prosecution and where evidence at our disposal dictates that criminal proceedings should be instituted, the NPA will not hesitate to do so,’ Mjonondwane said.

Full Sunday Tribune report