Research Articles

Patterns of unprofessional conduct by medical practitioners in South Africa (2007–2013)

Willem A. Hoffmann, Nico Nortjé
South African Family Practice | Vol 58, No 3 : May/June| a5668 | DOI: | © 2022 Willem A. Hoffmann, Nico Nortjé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 November 2022 | Published: 01 May 2016

About the author(s)

Willem A. Hoffmann, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Nico Nortjé, Department of Psychology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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A role of ethics in the medical context is to protect the interests, freedoms and well-being of patients. A critical analysis of unprofessional conduct by medical practitioners registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) requires a better understanding of the specific ethics misconduct trends.

To investigate the objectives the case content and sanctions of all guilty decisions related to unprofessional conduct against HPCSA-registered medical practitioners in the period 2007 to 2013 were analysed. A mixed methods approach was followed. The quantitative component focused on annual frequency data regarding the number of decisions taken against practitioners, number of practitioners, number of specific sanctions and categories. Relatively few medical practitioners (between 0.11% and 0.24%) are annually found guilty of unprofessional conduct. The annual average number of guilty decisions per guilty medical practitioner ranged between 1.29 and 2.58. The three most frequent sanctions imposed were fines between ZAR10 000 and ZAR15 000 (28.29%), fines between ZAR1 000 and ZAR8 000 (23.47%) and suspended suspensions between 1 month and 1 year (17.37%). The majority of the unprofessional conduct involved fraudulent behaviour (48.4%), followed by negligence or incompetence in evaluating, treating or caring for patients (29%).

Unethical behaviour by medical practitioners in South Africa occurs relatively infrequently.


ethical transgressions; fraud; HPCSA; Incompetence; negligence


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