Disciplinary proceedings against healthcare practitioners facing criminal charges: The role of the Health Professions Council of South Africa
The purpose of this article is to address the questions as to whether a criminal conviction of a healthcare practitioner should affect his or her professional standing, and whether such conviction constitutes ‘unprofessional conduct’ in terms of the Health Professions Act. The article also explores a related matter, namely whether the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has a legal duty to refer complaints regarding unprofessional conduct that displays criminal elements for criminal prosecution. After considering relevant case law on these issues, the article concludes that a practitioner, after being convicted of an offence, should be afforded an opportunity to explain him- or herself to the board, not only in extenuation of the conduct in question, but also in response to the question of whether the conduct constitutes improper or disgraceful conduct. Moreover, the article explains why the HPCSA and professional boards have a legal duty to refer matters of unprofessional conduct with criminal elements in terms of section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act to law enforcement agencies.