By Marika Sboros
Prof Tim Noakes had no patient on Twitter and his tweet caused no harm to anyone. So, what did two days of heated legal argument prove in the case against him?
It clearly is an “unprecedented prosecution” of a distinguished scientist, as Noakes’ legal team describes it. Even counsel for the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) acknowledged Noakes as “an extraordinary South African”.
But has the HPCSA really done the unthinkable? Has it prosecuted – and persecuted – one of its most eminent health professionals on the whim of another? Certainly, few had heard of dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom before this case.
But is Strydom a malcontent, a disgruntled dietitian who went after Noakes because he disagreed with her? If not, why did the HPCSA take up her complaint that many consider frivolous? And why did it argue forcefully not just in Strydom’s corner but for all dietitians?
Why does the HPCSA believe that Noakes is wrong and Strydom is right? And that she has the right to freedom of expression but he does not?
Just as importantly, why has the HPCSA made a simple hearing over a single tweet into a full-blown trial? After all, its hearings are not supposed to be adversarial. Here’s Part 1 of a review of the case so far and what to expect next. In Part 2, we look at the verdict on who really dishes up dangerous advice.