Ruling finds Professor Tim Noakes not-guilty of malpractice

On Friday, 21 April, Tim Noakes was found not-guilty of charges of malpractice and the giving of unconventional advice. This was after a tiresome three-year-long trial with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Professor Tim Noakes, most famed for his research on the Banting or low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet, was accused in 2014 by the HPCSA of unlawful soliciting of advice. Professor Noakes had been responding to a breastfeeding mother´s query on Twitter about the Banting diet and baby-nourishment. He advised her to gradually wean her infant onto a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.

After a three-year trial, Professor Noakes has been proven not-guilty of malpractice and unconventional advice-giving.

The HPCSA argued that Noakes´ advice-giving was unconventional as he had not had any consultation with the mother and infant and did not know enough about their unique biological history.

“@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? [sic],” the mother had queried.

“Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF,” Noakes had replied.

Advocate Joan Adams´ “not-guilty” hearing statement described how the committee found that advice given by Noakes was not “dangerous or life threatening” and that “no actual or potential harm was proven”. 

Four out of five of the panel members agreed with the verdict.

After a gruelling trial, which Noakes described as being a difficult time for him and his family, the verdict came as an immense relief. This was especially the case, as a false alarm by the HPCSA in 2016 had created a large uproar. 

It was falsely announced by the HPCSA, a few months prior to the final hearing this past weekend, that Professor Noakes had in fact been found guilty. Despite an apology with no further comments on the matter from the Council, Noakes and his team of lawyers decided they would take action against the HPCSA for this falsification. Read more here and here .

For Noakes, the verdict and nullification of the charges against him, came as a welcome relief, yet the trial could be a foreshadowing of the larger picture of patient-practitioner advice-giving.

Noakes stated that, “the question becomes [whether] the advice that is currently being given by dieticians and by many doctors could be unconventional, because it promotes the low-fat diet, which we proved is not evidence based.”

 

(Image source: http://www.sarie.com/gesond/dieet/die-tim-noakes-dieet-nou-ook-beskikbaar-afrikaans/)

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