Noakes guilty of ‘remarkable patience in face of profound silliness’

tim-noakesBy Marika Sboros 

Here’s another doctor who doesn’t think that world-renowned scientist Prof Tim Noakes is the devil incarnate of nutrition science. Psychiatry professor Michael Simpson is withering about the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) case against Noakes.

Simpson describes the HPCSA as “totally unfit for purpose” and “Alice in Wonderland living in Pretoria”. He says that it is acting “bizarrely and improperly” in going after Noakes. “Nobody who has paid intelligent attention to the proceedings and the evidence could find (Noakes) guilty of anything at all,” Simpson says.

If Noakes is guilty of anything, it’s “remarkable patience in the face of profound and consistent silliness”. There’s more.

Simpson is a retired psychiatrist who has worked as a doctor and academic in many countries. He has authored many articles and books and has been Health24’s “Cybershrink” since its inception.

Prof Michael Simpson

Prof Michael Simpson

His latest column for Health24 is a blistering attack on the HPCSA case against Noakes. The HPCSA has charged Noakes with unprofessional conduct for a single tweet to a breastfeeding mother in February 2014. In the tweet, Noakes says that good first foods for infant weaning are LCHF (low-carb, high-fat).

In his column, Simpson says it is not a privilege, but the “absolute duty of any professor to profess to know their field and clearly express their views to the public”. Consequently, no-one should victimise a professor for doing so, he says.

Simpson is also  critical of Johannesburg dietitian, Claire Julsing Strydom, who first reported Noakes to the HPCSA.

He calls her a “little-known woman, then leader of a group of dieticians, the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA)”. He says Strydom “grew furious” (at Noakes’ tweet). She complained to the HPCSA that the tweet was unscientific – despite “an enormous body of scientific research supporting his views”.

“More peculiarly”, Simpson says that Strydom told the breastfeeding to ignore Noakes’ advice and contact her instead. Thus, this was a specific offense against the HPCSA’s own professional codes of conduct.

“Yet the (HPCSA) has totally ignored the issue of this definite breach of their rules of professional conduct,” Simpson says. Instead, in an “ugly and disorganised way”, it has pursued a “nasty case against the professor”.

Simpson questions why Strydom and ADSA appear to be “trying to obscure their role” in the case. He also blasts the HPCSA for releasing a statement last month that it had found Noakes guilty. He also calls that action the “most amazingly daft and disgraceful things ever seen in such a situation”.

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“It’s hard to understand,” says Simpson, “how anyone at the (HPCSA) could have been so resoundingly stupid.”

The HPCSA retracted the statement  with what Simpson calls a “faint apology”. He asks why the HPCSA has not identified and sacked the person responsible.

Simpson ends off with some pertinent questions:

  • If the HPCSA Professional Conduct Committee hearing the case against Noakes finds him innocent, who will pay the massive costs of his defense?
  • What if Noakes, understandably, sues the HPCSA and complainants?
  • Why did the HPCSA advise Strydom not to attend the hearing?
  • Is the Department of Health concerned that their new “prudent diet” may be scientifically wrong?
  • Is there any basis for rumours that Big Food is behind the case and if so, what should the authorities do about it?