Act 1 of this sad health melodrama
I feel unexpectedly strongly about the Noakes verdict. David vs Goliath, evidence vs dogma, and a victory for the individual versus the gang of bullies.
So I’m sitting here eating my high carb naartjie and celebrating the Noakes team victory! I don’t know anyone involved in the HPCSA-Noakes hearing and I only believe in LCHF as a therapeutic tool, not as a first-stop, but lets face it, the way they treated him sucked!
With his win in the hearing, arrogance, doublespeak and self-righteousness lost, but at a huge cost to him and to the reputation of his accusers?
How it all started
I’m not going to go through all the tweets again that lead to this debacle. Here’s the summary:
Noakes has been passionate about his hobby-horse LCHF for a while, everyone knows it. A mother on Twitter simultaneously asked him and another ardent low carb proponent a question about a mother’s diet whilst breastfeeding. Surprise – the low-carb proponents gave a pro low carb answer. Even more of a surprise, on Twitter the answer had limited detail. Why did the mother even ask the question when she basically already knew what the answer would be from the people she chose to pose her question to? Why did she ask on Twitter if she wanted a detailed answer? The answer to this, it seems, is worth millions, even though that mother made her own choices to follow anther path and never laid a complaint.
Enter the Bullies…
They were prissy, opinionated and arrogant. They were going to teach this A1 graded research scientist a lesson simply because they didn’t believe his research could be true if they disagreed. Did they think he got overnight dementia and threw his world-class-top-ranking-research-scientist rating that he had spent years achieving out of the window on a whim? Whatever they thought, they behaved like bullies, and waded in shouting (on Twitter, in CAPS), publicly trashing him and his views, and doing so, completely in contravention of their professional code of conduct:
People don’t automatically earn respect, but he has spent years at the forefront of research. You don’t think there’s something in his achievements that deserve at least a respectful approach, or a professional forum for criticism? Is our Academia going the route of our parliament, where the loudest voices must be the right ones?
The tragicomedy unfolds
- The HPCSA charged him from a file of secret information and reports that they had no intention of ever sharing with him until the Chair of the Committee hearing shamed them into doing so. They produced ‘secret’ witnesses. I think it’s fair to call them ‘The Bullies”.
- In mid-process, against good legal practice, the HPCSA changed the complainant from Ms Clare Julsing-Strydom to the dietitian’s association (ADSA).
- The ADSA then enlightened us in a news articles that they have nothing personal against Professor Noakes: they merely wanted clarity of how to use social media professional and they wanted to protect innocent little babies with their ‘query’. It wasn’t a direct disciplinary charge now, just an innocent little query. Am I the only one wondering why not just ASK THE HPCSA FOR GUIDELINES? Or ask Prof Noakes to reply to a published, peer-reviewed scientific study in a public forum if you’re honest and admit you didn’t like the content of what he’s saying. In other words, choose a professional response.
Below is Julsing Strydom’s “not-personal” query-complaint against Prof Noakes.
“To whom it may concern
“I would like to file a report against Prof Tim Noakes. He is giving incorrect medical (medical nutrition therapy) (sic) on Twitter that is not evidence based. I have attached the tweet where Prof Noakes advises a breastfeeding mother to wean her baby onto a low carbohydrate high-fat diet.”
“I urge HPCSA to please take urgent action against this type of misconduct as prof (sic) Noakes is a ‘celebrity’in South Africa and the public does not have the knowledge to understand that the information he is advocating is not evidence based – it is especially dangerous to give this advice for infants and can potentially be life-threatening. I await your response.
Claire Julsing Strydom”
Cue fluttering eyelashes: “It wasn’t personal”
Now that Noakes has been found not guilty, with no recognition of the hurt and harm done to him, the ADSA (Gallagher) writes the following article again on Health24:
I doubt that Noakes has experienced it quite that way. At least further on in this article they admit that it’s a complaint against him and no longer try to soft-soap it. I see there’s been a statement published by the ADSA since the Not Guilty verdict, saying that they didn’t expect it to go this far, but that it wasn’t their choice that it followed this path, it was the HPCSA’s process. Somehow, with all the effort to get a dietitian on the panel, I don’t quite buy that they were passive bystanders in the process, completely without influence. They also say it went this far because it couldn’t be resolved in the normal process, but again, with the attitude they showed, how could they have expected to be met with conciliation. They don’t mention anywhere that they tried to initiate conciliation. The HPCSA also didn’t manage the case as aggressively as they did because they were trying to find a meeting of minds.
The ADSA still does not say is that they will read Professor Noakes’s research cases, even though the Advocate Chairing the HPCSA hearing, Adv Joan Adams did maintain there was “logic” to it. The ADSA rather go to lengths to defend their current stance. I find that sad. As professionals they should robustly research, read, engage with and critically analyse ALL relevant research. They don’t have to change their approach if the scientific evidence doesn’t pass critical scientific evaluation.
Being this blinkered and ignoring research because it doesn’t match their guidelines is an indictment on their profession and the South African training institutions that have fostered this mindset.
Back to the ADSA’s statement … they do say mud was slung on both sides and it was. I also don’t completely buy Prof Noakes’s side, much as it seems I support him a hundred percent. The difference is I’d try a meeting of grounds with respect before I attacked him in public. I also won’t assume I’m right until I’ve read his scientific reviews point by point and assessed my belief system against them if I were going to argue with him. However, this post isn’t about the content of what he said or the manner in which it was said, this is about the process and the disrespect and procedural unfairness it was riddled with from the start.
Setting up the boxing ring
Who can blame a man aggressively backed into a corner for fighting? I certainly don’t. Communications strategy 101: you set up the environment to ensure you achieve the result you want. You attack, they fight. One has to assume that, despite all contradictory statements, conflict was what was sought, consciously or not. When a bully attacks you, you can either stand and fight or run away and face it again another day. Professor Noakes was never going to run! And in the circumstances, how could they possibly expect him to initiate conciliation!?!
Follow the Money
What really gets to me is the price of this whole escapade. Of course there is a huge emotional price that the Professor has paid:
* the enormous damage of grossly belittling a giant of a man on the cusp of his retirement,
* the hurt he has dealt with in being declared a pariah by Academia
* and much more I haven’t even thought of.
Let’s ignore that though, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s unquantifiable. Let’s look at the actual rand value of this hearing. According to media reports, it cost the HPCSA R10 MILLION – did I shout that? I’ll do it again: TEN MILLION RAND! And that’s without Noakes’ Team’s costs, which apparently amounted to R2 million.
Given the R130 BILLION that the HPCSA collected last year in membership fees, the ten million rand they frittered away in a poorly managed process according to legal and governance practices is perfectly acceptable to them. But how will any but the most well-off doctor manage to get justice in that system where their professional council is prepared to throw this kind of money at annihilating a single career and reputation. Maybe understandable if lives had been lost and more were at stake, but that doesn’t cut it here. And that is the crux of my anger. It’s the David and Goliath issue: how would my GP have been able to defend herself in this process? She would never have been able to afford it.
Change of the balance of power with the Not Guilty verdict for Noakes
Noakes vs ADSA-HPCSA: A shift in who’s holding the power?Thanks to his reputation, Professor Noakes had a legal team who were prepared to defend him pro bono – Pike Law. Their presence balanced the odds. So they won, but they haven’t been paid for it and the HPCSA who lost have been paid. Unfair, but can that change?
It might, because now, as the victors, there’s potentially room for either the Pike Law legal team or Professor Noakes to seek financial redress for a patently unfair process, but from whom? The HPCSA, Clare Julsing Strydom and the ADSA are all potential targets.
Any emotional attempt at reparation?
Clare Julsing Strydom admitted under cross-questioning that she might have over-reacted, but she never apologised for her unprofessional slagging-off of Professor Noakes. The ADSA tried to do ballerina twirls on top of their fairy-tale white-washed horse – but no admission or apology from them either. And Professor Noakes? He still, unsurprisingly, is passionately promoting his diet-philosophy. But let’s be fair, he hauled out mountains of evidence in the hearing for it. Who from the ADSA was there to hear them with a scientifically open mind – there was only nominal representation? Do you suppose anyone read the research after hours?
Isn’t it time the two sides at least started sharing and courtesy-reading peer-reviewed PubMed articles? And I don’t only mean the ones that they agree with before they read them.
Bottom line, despite Professor Noakes’ Not Guilty verdict, this process has been a travesty and a blight on South’s Africa’s professional procedures and ethics. I’m not even sure that the Bullies get how huge the international following for this has been and the concomitant embarrassment.
Act 2 Part 1 of this sad health melodrama
The HPCSA is again taking up the cudgels against dangerous Noakes. Clearly losing face didn’t sit well with them and they need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They’ve chosen the ground and the fighters. In other words they have chosen the committee and the terms of the appeal. Noakes has no chance, so let’s add the likely outcome here:
Noakes 1: Bullies 1 Fair fight? – None
And the sorority -clique-dieticians? Still sitting holier than though, denying any culpability and persisting in their prissy pettiness. Is the Noakes-Sboros side better? not really. It’s become personal, but they are the victims here. Noakes has been hit personally, of course he’ll take it personally, and he’s not going to stop fighting, so …
It will move onto a fairer battleground – the South African Courts. And they are fair.
Act 3 Noakes escalates to fair ground, the legal system
May justice prevail! You’ll notice I don’t say may Noakes prevail because I truly do want fair justice, a win for health.
And, in and ideal world, the court would insist that the HPCSA gets real grievance procedures, fair processes and stops wasting our money because at the end of the day the doctors charge us to cover their insurance.
Disclaimer: All the information sourced for this article was sourced from twitter or the internet. It assumes that you are not an idiot and will read multiple views in this information age, as the eloquent and time-savvy Advocate Joan Adams declared.