The publishers of the controversial book, “Mandela’s Last Years” have withdrawn it from the shelves and immediately stopped issuing copies following the protest by Graca Machel, the widow of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
Machel had threatened legal action against his late husband’s personal doctor, Dr. Vejay Ramlakan, over a book that reveals previously undisclosed details of his patient.
According to Africa Review, Dr Ramlakan, headed the former South African leader’s medical team until his death in December 2013 at the age of 95.
He released his book, “Mandela’s Last Years’’ last Tuesday to coincide with Mandela Day on July 18, in honour of his memory.
“I condemn the book in the strongest terms,” Ms Machel said in a statement released by her foundation.
“I am taking legal advice on whether to institute legal proceedings against the author and its publisher,” she said.
In the book, Ramlakan reveals intimate details of Mandela’s health condition including those of his admission at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital on June 8, in a “serious condition”.
Ms Machel, who was married to Mandela in 1998, says the book is a “breach of the doctor-patient relationship of confidentiality”.
Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) confirmed the move saying it was done “out of respect for the late Mr Mandela’s family.”
This comes after threats by the former president Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel to sue his doctor, Dr Vejay Ramlakan, who wrote the book.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) physician led the medical team treating Mandela in the months before his death.
His book details episodes of the end of the former statesman’s life and bitter family squabbles related to his health.
PRHSA explained that they accepted Mandela’s Last Years for publication after the author Dr Ramlakan advised them that he had been requested by his family to publish it.
“The book was meant to portray Nelson Mandela’s courage and strength until the very end of his life, and was in no way intended to be disrespectful. However, given the statements from family members, we have decided to withdraw the book,” PRHSA said in a statement.
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has condemned the author saying any patient-related information within the doctor-patient relationship is sacrosanct and must be respected even after death, Africa Review reported.
“Irrespective of the contents of the book, all doctors are reminded of their ethical responsibilities to patients, regardless of who they are. The core ethical tenet of the doctor-patient relationship is the principle of confidentiality,” said Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.
He added: “In the now no longer used Hippocratic Oath, it refers to secrets in the doctor-patient relationship as being ‘holy’. Perhaps of greater relevance the Geneva Declaration, used by most doctors in their oath taking, contains the line: “I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died’.’’
Dr Grootboom added that violating this principle undermines the trust the public has in their medical practitioners. (Africa Review/NAN)