"Madiba would have to give express consent for doctor to share medical details"

The controversy surrounding Dr Vejay Ramlakan's book _Mandela’s Last Years _has led to publishing house Penguin Random House SA pulling it off the shelves with immediate effect.

One of the big questions surrounding the book, was whether Ramlakan violated doctor-patient confidentiality by publishing it.

Professor Mark Sonderup, vice chairperson of The South African Medical Association (SAMA), says the organisation will not get into the merits or demerits of the book itself. Instead, they are using the situation as an opportunity to remind those in the medical profession of the importance of confidentiality.

The issue of confidentiality, more correctly, within the context of doctor-patient relationships is probably one of the fundamental tenants of ethical practice.

Professor Mark Sonderup, vice chairperson of The South African Medical Association

Read: LISTEN: Madiba's doctor details dramatic, touch-and-go event months before death

Sonderup says that most doctors around the world subscribe to the Geneva Declaration, that talks about maintaining confidentiality - even after death. He adds that this confidentiality is vital as it establishes trust between doctors and patients and enhances the nature of the relationship.

Ramlakan claims members of the Mandela family asked him to write the book, thus does not believe he violated confidentiality. Sonderup feels the situation is more complex than that.

If family member wish to disclose issues posthumously about a patient, that is their prerogative. But a doctor is held to a higher standard.

Professor Mark Sonderup, vice chairperson of The South African Medical Association

When it comes to doctors writing books about patients, Sonderup says that this can only happen if express consent was given by the patient.

Listen to the full interview below:

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