Sama on Madiba book: Doctors are held to a higher standard

This comes after the controversy after Nelson Mandela’s doctor Vejay Ramlakan wrote a book about Madiba.

FILE: This file photograph of former president Nelson Mandela was taken on 8 July 2010. Picture: Debbie Yazbek/Nelson Mandela Foundation.

JOHANNESBURG – The South African Medical Association (Sama) says the ethical guidelines given to doctors and medical practitioners to protect patients’ confidentiality are unshakeable.

This comes after the controversy after Nelson Mandela’s doctor, Vejay Ramlakan, wrote a book about Madiba.

But Madiba’s family and Madiba’s widow raised serious concerns about doctor-patient confidentiality.

Penguin Random House SA issued a statement on Monday saying it’s withdrawing the book titled Mandela’s Last Years with immediate effect out of respect for the Mandela family.

Ramlakan details Mandela’s ailments during his last days and his passing in 2013.

Sama vice chairperson Mark Sonderup says: “If family members wished to disclose issues posthumously about a patient, that’s their prerogative but a doctor is held to a higher standard.

“It is the very nature of that relationship that places trust, that society and the public place their trust in medical practitioners.”


Mandela’s Last Years also goes into detail about Madiba’s final days, claiming that it was his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and not his widow Machel who was at his side when he passed.

Ramlakan saw nothing wrong with writing the book.

“This book is able to set the record straight and I used that term specifically. In the last few years, there have been a number of stories on what happened to him or there was speculation about his last days.”

The Mandela royal family said that it was deeply disappointed that the doctor has included information that may constitute a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality.

On Friday, Machel said she was taking legal advice on whether to sue Ramlakan for the book.

She strongly condemned the book and believes it's an assault on the trust and dignity of her late husband.

Meanwhile, the Defence Department said that the views expressed in the newly published book had not been sanctioned by the department or the SANDF.

Defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said: “The department completely distances itself from the book. The department wants to explicitly state that all views in the book are those of the author and do not represent the DOD or South African Military Health Service.”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)