Dr Christiaan Botha committed suicide last weekend, a month before he was to appear before the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) on more charges relating to performing outside the scope of his qualifications.
Botha, who studied medicine at the University of Pretoria, was not a qualified plastic surgeon. He started performing cosmetic surgery after 10 years of “self-study” and helping qualified surgeons.
The HPCSA had set aside a week in July for Botha’s matter but received news last week that he had committed suicide. The hearing related to six new cases of women who had gone to Botha for breast augmentation but had developed complications afterwards.
The HPCSA accused Botha of failing and neglecting to provide proper care to the patients as complications set in. There were eight cases in all but Botha paid an admission of guilt fine for the other two when he appeared before a preliminary committee of inquiry recently.
Botha’s lawyer, advocate Johan Stroh, said he did not know what could have caused Botha to take his own life but believed that it was because “it all got too much for him”. Stroh, who had represented Botha in his hearings, said they had recently won an appeal pertaining to one of his sentences, and he was shocked by news of his client’s death
The sentence related to a 2007 botched operation on Zelna Venter, whose nipple had fallen off. Infection had set in, the wound began to smell and both her aureolas and a piece of skin had to be removed. A week after being prosecuted over the Venter matter, Botha was found guilty again for the same offence regarding surgery on Ronelle Britz. He was suspended for a year, nine months of which was suspended for three years
After being found guilty of unprofessional conduct pertaining to the Venter matter last year, the HPCSA ordered Botha to close his cosmetic surgery practice and to stop practising as a GP for a year. That sentence (to stop practising as a GP for a year) was suspended for a year. However, Botha appealed the sentence and won in March this year. The sentence was changed to a five-year sentence wholly suspended for 10 years.
“I think (what drove him to commit suicide) was the pressure, coupled with losing it all and also his economical situation. He was down and out economically,” Stroh said. He did not know how Botha had ended his life.
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