Abortion: Malawian clinician nabbed for causing girlfriend’s death

A clinical officer working for government’s Ntchisi District Hospital is in police custody answering to murder charges for allegedly causing the death of his girlfriend through abortion.

The clinician, Kwaule Raffat Tembo, is suspected to have administered an abortion on her girlfriend, Reginat Nkhoma, that led to her death.

According to the deceased relations, Reginat and Tembo had been in an established relationship and at the time of her death the woman was five months pregnant by him.

The two, who were planning to marry, also had a child together. But the woman already had six other children from her previous marriages.

The relative said on the day of the death, Nkhoma went to the hospital in the company of her elder sister.

“When Reginat went inside the hospital premises to meet Tembo, the sister remained outside but she was surprised when after sometime Tembo called her to rush inside the hospital claiming her sister was seriously ill.

“We believe they were trying to get rid of the pregnancy but we wonder why since they were planning to marry,” bemoaned Anna Nthenda, an aunt to the deceased adding that her niece died while in Tembo’s room.

On that day, Nthenda claimed, Tembo was reportedly not on duty but managed to get pull a stretcher which he used to take her girlfriend’s body from his room to female ward where nurses on duty confirmed her death.

Justice

Meanwhile, relatives are seeking justice from police on the matter after staff members at the Ntchisi Hospital reportedly advised them to speed up burial arrangements before investigations were concluded.

“We want the police to help us establish the truth on the matter so that justice takes its course,” a brother to the deceased Village Headman Jabesi said.

And Tuesday this week, Tembo appeared before the Ntchisi First Grade Magistrate Alex Kantiki to answer the charges where he pleaded not guilty.

His request to be granted bail was also turned down by the Magistrate Kantiki saying the decision would be made by the High Court which will continue hearing the case where Tembo is expected to present his defense.

Illegal

In Malawi, abortion is illegal and Section 149 of the Penal Code condemns any person who administers it to 14 years imprisonment while Section 156 states that any woman who solicits an abortion is liable to seven years in prison.

However, that being the case the law also allows a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy at a legally recognized health institution only if it is proven that her life is in danger.

But this development arrangement forces many women to seek illegal and unsafe ways of terminating their unwanted pregnancies.

A recent report conducted by Malawi’s Ministry of Health in conjunction with IPSA, a US based reproductive rights organisation discovered that about 17 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi are as a result of unsafe abortions and close to 70,000 women had an illegal abortion in 2009 alone.

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