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Jablensky, A. (1979). Correspondence: Mental Health Care in South Africa. J. Child Psychother., 5(1):103-109.

(1979). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 5(1):103-109

Correspondence: Mental Health Care in South Africa

A. Jablensky

In 1978 this journal (Vol. 4, No. 4) published an “Open Letter” in which Dr. James MacKeith drew attention to the ethical problems arising from the publication of the World Health Organization's Preliminary Review, “Apartheid and Mental Health Care”. Dr. MacKeith suggested that his comments be sent to the South African Minister of Health for forwarding to psychiatrists with “direct clinical responsibility for the services concerned”. In writing to the South African Minister of Health, the editor drew attention to Dr. MacKeith's suggestion, and added that this journal would be happy to publish informed and free comment.

The Acting Minister of Health's reply is given below; in it he refers to the correspondence in “The Lancet” on this topic. In order that readers may judge this issue for themselves we also give below the two major letters from the correspondence in “The Lancet”: that of Professor Gillis, which attacks the views of the W.H.O. preliminary review, and that of jablensky which supports those views.

12th July 1978

Dear Madam,

I write to reply to your letter of 19th May 1978 together with enclosure, the contents of which have been noted.

May I express appreciation of Dr. MacKeith's efforts in endeavouring to obtain objectivity on an emotionally-ridden subject.

I should however, like to draw your attention to an editorial on the World Health Organisation Report “Apartheid and Mental Health Care”, which appeared in “The Lancet” of 3rd September 1977, and which was fully replied to by Professor L.S. Gillis in his capacity as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa. I wish to assure you that this and subsequent lengthy correspondence which appeared in the columns of “The Lancet”, was free, unsolicited comment and was at no time referred to me for approval in terms of any existing legislation.

Journals such as yours are freely available to the interested disciplines in this country and members are at liberty to react to their contents in a manner they deem fit.

While I appreciate your courtesy in approaching me, I do not consider that my assurance to any South African psychiatrist in correspondence with you, is called for.


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