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Prof Henry Lerm says the SA MedicoLegal Association has a huge role to play in curbing excessive medical expenditure and litigation.

Respected legal educator and retired attorney Prof Henry Lerm has become the first Eastern Cape president of the SA Medico-Legal Association.

Lerm, 67, who lectures in the Nelson Mandela University law department while mentoring at the Missionvale Law Clinic, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

He confirmed yesterday he had been appointed to the position after the death in June of the association’s former president, Gauteng-based retired judge Neels Claassen.

“I am excited but it comes with a lot of responsibility,” he said.

“This is a prestigious organisation, one of only a few of its kind in the world, that promotes dialogue and understanding between the legal and medical fraternity, to promote excellence in medicolegal practice and benefit the public.”

The association was established 21 years ago and members include mediation practitioners, lawyers, advocates and judges, and an array of medical personnel from physiotherapists and occupational therapists to general practitioners and specialists.

“We organise regular workshops to show medical practitioners what they can expect when involved in a court case and to train and equip them to become better expert witnesses.

“The aim is to show them how the law works and what is expected of them in court, which they may not know much about especially if they have not been exposed to such a situation before.”

Lerm practised as an attorney in Nelson Mandela Bay for four decades, focusing on medical negligence cases.

Studying part-time throughout his student years, Lerm completed his undergraduate degree through the then University of Port Elizabeth before continuing through the university’s Vista and Missionvale campuses and finally completing his doctorate on exclusionary clauses in medical contracts through the University of Pretoria.

He said the association was busy with two major mediation projects, partnering on one with the Road and Accident Fund and on the other with the Gauteng health MEC.

“We believe mediation is much less costly and time consuming than litigation so our qualified mediators have offered their services to these two parties.

“We have made great strides and are already seeing some of the positive results.”

He said the initiative was prompted by the dire state of the government health system.

“We are in a crisis where monies budgeted by our health departments to replace obsolete equipment, employ more personnel and improve hospital infrastructure are instead being used on litigation.

“I believe the association has a huge role to play in curbing excessive medical expenditure and litigation in SA, and finding ways to save and improve health services which will benefit the broader public.”

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 4 August 2021 written by Guy Rogers

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