On the 21st of June 2016, the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS, attended a Health Ethics Seminar organised by AVIWE Healthcare Resource and Training Institute themed “Upholding Healthcare Ethics in Modern Society.” The seminar was officially opened by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Sheenaz El Habib and presentations were made on behalf of the Botswana Health Professionals Council (BHPC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in addition to the presentations made by various experts in healthcare ethics.
According to the Constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of 1946, “The enjoyment of the highest standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” It cannot be stressed enough that the attainment of this “highest standard of health” is intrinsically linked to ethical behaviour and the observance of human rights where the principles of Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, Autonomy and Justice are practiced in that the patient’s best interests are always taken into account by the health provider, that the patient’s right to make their own decisions is honoured and respected on being informed of available options, that harm is not done to the patient in anyway and finally that all patients are treated impartially with equal access to quality healthcare for all.
While we, as the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) recognise the efforts made to promote the observance of the above mentioned principles in healthcare facilities, through various pieces of health legislation such as the Botswana Health Professionals Act among many other as well as through the use of ethical code of conduct it is imperative to note that there is a growing number of cases relating to medical malpractice and negligence which are a cause for concern. In one week alone, we receive at least one case relating to the fields mentioned above and this hardly compares to the magnitude of cases that go unreported. We highlight the fact that this has the effect of chipping away the integrity of the health industry in Botswana with more and more patients losing faith in accessing quality healthcare services.
It is unacceptable that the Government, through taxpayer’s money, continue to bear the costs of medical malpractice, while violators hide behind the veil of vicarious liability. It is therefore stressed that health professionals are held personally liable.We call upon the Government of Botswana to create a more legally enabling environment for health by ensuring that the right to health is enshrined within Botswana’s Constitution. We further call upon BHPC to strengthen accountability mechanisms by ensuring that health professionals who breach the Code of Ethical Professional Conduct are taken to task. Lastly, we call upon the public to report cases of ethical violations; documentation is our biggest tool in advocating for justice.