Mandela book author’s freedom of expression rights may be trumped by ‘overwhelming’ public interest‚ say experts
Former president Nelson Mandela’s doctor‚ Vejay Ramlakan‚ may be entitled to freedom of expression‚ but that right can be limited when there is “overwhelming” public interest‚ experts say.
Since its launch‚ Ramlakan’s book titled Mandela’s Last Years has received a backlash from members of the former statesman’s family and from health professionals‚ who found him to have breached doctor-patient confidentiality. The book has since been taken off the shelves.
“Great public interest would trump his freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right that can be limited‚” said Phephelaphi Dube‚ director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.
“Overwhelming public interest overshadows his freedom of expression‚” she said.
According to the Freedom of Expression Institute‚ the question on whether or not doctor-patient confidentiality trumps freedom of expression is one that speaks to ethics.
“In this case SAMA has indicated that patient information is confidential‚ even after the patient has passed on. From that perspective‚ we would argue that the doctor is bound by his profession not to disclose sensitive patient details‚” said FXI’s spokesperson Tusi Fokane.
According to the Health Professions' Council of SA‚ a doctor can circumvent his oath to respect doctor-patient confidentiality‚ in respect of a deceased patient‚ only if he has the written consent of the next-of-kin or of the executor of the deceased's estate