oa South African Journal of Bioethics and Law - Were ethical and legal issues violated, or was the book Mandela’s Last Days censored? - correspondence

Volume 10 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1999-7639



To the Editor: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) was the first black president of the Republic of South Africa (SA), the iconic figure of the liberation struggle against apartheid and the unique moral voice of the world. Many books have been written about Madiba, including his own autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, but none has drawn more controversy than the recently published book, Mandela’s Last Days, authored by retired military doctor, Lieut. Gen. Vejay Ramlakan (VR). According to the publisher’s author biography, VR has been a member of the African National Congress (ANC) for approximately 40 years, he was incarcerated on Robben Island from 1987 to 1991 and he was the surgeon general of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) from 1995 to 2013. He was charged with the responsibility of providing healthcare to Madiba from 2005 until his death on Thursday 5 December 2013. His rationale for penning the book was to ‘recount one of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit and to set the record straight by rectifying the misconceptions, untruths, speculations and rumours about Mandela’s last years’. Subsequently, VR has been accused of violating doctorpatient confidentiality by making Madiba’s medical records and treatment public without consent, and for making intimate personal disclosures about the Mandela family, thus violating their dignity, trust and respect. In response, the publishers, Penguin Random House SA, without contestation and at their own expense, withdrew the book from bookstores countrywide within less than a month of its publication (June 2017), and all further sales of the book have been censored ‘out of respect for Madiba’s family’.

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