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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 3 of Episode 53

10:10Doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists and medical scientists have a special duty to try and heal the sick and save lives. We all believe that they do not take sides and are above politics, but during the apartheid era there were health workers who colluded with the state, often turning a blind eye to police brutality and torture. This past week the Truth Commission had a special hearing in Cape Town highlighting some of the human rights violations committed in South Africa’s medical profession in the past.Full Transcript and References
10:43‘The Oath Violated: Health and Apartheid, Report by Rene Schiebe.’ // The death in detention of Steve Bantu Biko, the father of Black Consciousness in South Africa was referred to repeatedly at the TRC’s health hearing this week as the tragedy which marks one of the darkest, most shameful chapters in this country’s medical history. Full Transcript and References
11:13Biko was placed in detention on the 19th of August 1977. By the 7th of September as a result of interrogation and torture by the Eastern Cape security police Biko was said to be unresponsive and acting strangely. Port Elizabeth district surgeon doctor Ivor Lang found the detainee lying on a mat, manacled to a metal grill. There were cuts and bruises on Biko’s face and body. Doctor Lang did not ask how the injuries had been sustained, but at the request of the security police he wrote a false medical certificate stating that he’d found no evidence of abnormality on the patient. The following day in the presence of his superior, Doctor Benjamin Tucker, Doctor Lang again examined Biko, this time while Biko lay on a mat soaked with urine. Full Transcript
12:10After tests showing brain injury the doctors authorised the patient’s return to the police cells. On the 11th of September the patient collapsed. The doctor accepted police refusal to transfer to hospital and agreed to mister Biko’s transfer 750 miles to Pretoria at the back of a Land Rover on the floor.Full Transcript and References
12:39On the 12th of September six hours after arriving in Pretoria Steve Biko died on a stone floor in Pretoria Central Prison.Full Transcript
12:47Steve Biko was a medical student and under ordinary circumstances he would today have been a practicing doctor. His legacy to South African medicine has to be thoroughgoing correction of those issues in this story that might conceivably ever allow it to happen again. // Peter, thank you very much and I’d like to add my voice to yours in apologising to Mrs. Biko and her family. Although I’m very proud to be a doctor I can never listen to or read the chronology of Steve Biko’s death without feeling a deep sense of shame.Full Transcript
13:32The Commission also heard the humiliating story of Elda Bani, a 50 year old political activist and diabetic who was denied proper medical care before she died in detention in and Eastern Cape prison in 1987.Full Transcript and References
13:47Her medical reality was denied by health professionals. She had severe insulin dependent diabetes and she was told to eat sweets and take sugar. Her treatment was withdrawn at the time that she needed the most assistance. She was left in a coma for days before her death.Full Transcript
14:12They say that we have tried everything we could for Elda Bani’s health but she has passed away. We asked. Where? Was she in hospital or here in prison? They did not answer that question. Full Transcript
14:33A number of health organisations, such as the South African Medical and Dental Council and the Medical Association of South Africa also made submissions to the TRC, but the submission made by the South African Medical Service was slammed by the TRC. // We have to face our past. The omission at the centre of this submission is the complete silence around the war in which the SADF was involved.Full Transcript
15:07A former medic in the SA Medical Service this week broke his silence about his involvement in the war. // The first time I ever put a stitch into a person or the first time I ever gave anybody an injection was at Tembisa hospital. As medics we were sent there on Friday and Saturday evenings to practice on people because quite frankly it didn’t matter if we made a mistake because they were black people. And many mistakes were made.Full Transcript and References
15:38TRC Commissioners emphasize that this week’s health hearing was just a small step in a long process of healing, which should be followed up by the medical profession and human rights organisations. // If we achieve anything through this process I do hope that we insure that human beings are never again treated like animals and like non people the way Steven Biko was.Full Transcript
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