Ethical dilemma on Mutharika’s death?

Morally, it is expected that any health-care provider should conduct themselves in a manner that would gain people’s confidence and trust. A common person looks up to them as angels of hope; hence, called noble profession. This is a more reason that there are regulatory bodies in the country and all over the world, ostensibly to observe and control standards as anything to the contrary could cost life.

Quite opposite to other professions like engineering in which a technician would postpone to attending a faulty machine till the following morning and nothing changes. Not so with human life. As a noble profession driven by virtues of impact, it is also guided by law, professional practice and code of conduct.

In view of the aforementioned, if what the director of Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) said in one of our weekend papers about Bingu wa Mutharika’s personal doctor is anything to go by, I then find his professional conduct very strange and his reputation called into question. The life of the former president was on his hands in trust and confidence. In this regard, his duty demands that he be professional and ethical in the way he handles issues to do with Mutharika’s death. He should not take the whole country to ransom.

All this secrecy will not do him any good. Firstly, he broke protocol when he brought the former president or his dead body to the intensive care unit at KCH without notifying the authorities of this institution. What the doctor needs to know is that at that point in time he was bringing a patient, no matter the status, assuming he was alive, to the hospital. The only requirement for him was to bring a referral letter and let KCH take over. This institution is out of his jurisdiction. Yet he decided to ignore this fundamental procedure and carried on, own his on.

Worse still, as quoted by the hospital’s director, the file in which he recorded the details of whatever resuscitating measures carried out at this referral hospital were taken out with him. This borders on ethical and legal violation and is criminal under international criminal and detective justice network. Whether he did this by coercion from notorious members of the former administration to erase evidence, he is liable to errors of both omission and commission.

For the case study’s sake pathologist, Dr. Dzamalala had not bowed down to pressure from the politicians and senior police officers who were threatening him to doctor autopsy report of one Robert Chasowa. He stood his ground and upholds the Hippocratic Oath to which he owes an allegiance. Otherwise, the fate of Chasowa would not have been known.

The Medical Council of Malawi has laid down procedures on what to do with its member who has gone wayward. Surprisingly, the registrar of the council is quoted in the same paper as saying there is nothing they could do about the issue in question. For them to act it takes one to complain. What type of complaint is Medical Council, looking for? When there is public outcry on allegations against their member’s their duty is to investigate and then hear the member’s side of their story as per the demand of the principle of natural justice that the accused should be heard.

Mutharika’s personal doctor committed a grave strategic error that needs a remedial measure. No wonder people have been misinformed about actual date which former president died. Misinforming the nation on an issue of national importance is a serious matter.

To put the records straight for posterity, real date of the death of the former president to the nation should be announced. If the Medical Council and the KCH as institutions are helpless as they made as believe, then the Ministry of Health as a mother ministry, should come in and retrieve the said classified documents that disappeared from KCH.

—The author is pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health, specialising in bioethics, In Blantyre.

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