Malawi court finds abusive clinician with case to answer: Accused of raping unconcius patient

The Magistrate Court in Mzuzu has found a clinical officer at Mzuzu Central Hospital with a case to answer on the offence for allegedly raping a mentally challenged patient.

Chief Resident Magistrate Joseph Chigona told the ‘stone silent’ court that prosecutors led by Senior State Advocate Tamara Chatupa had proved to the court that the offence took place.

The state paraded seven witnesses.

Hope Chipwatali, 36, of Chimbia Village Traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza District, who is charged with defilement of an imbecile contrary to Section 139 of the Penal Code, is expected to defend himself when hearing resumes on February 18th 2013.

Ghambi: Attorney  for Chipwatali, argues there was no sexual assualt
Ghambi: Attorney for Chipwatali, argues there was no sexual assualt

He is accused of sexually assaulting a patient in the consultation room after he sedated her on the pretext that he was giving her medicine for her ailment.

Hospital records indicate that the victim is a 35-year-old from Mwanyanja Village, T/A Nthalire in Chitipa [name shielded], who was admitted to the referral hospital for mental illness on January 20 this year following a prolonged altercation with her husband in South Africa.

Chipwatali is on bail and as part of his bail conditions; the Court barred him from work till the case ends.

Earlier, Mzuzu based lawyer Christon Ghambi of CHRAM Associates, who is representing Chipwatali, tried to punch holes in the state’s evidence arguing that the prosecutors had failed to prove to the court that sexual penetration indeed took place.

But Senior State Advocate Chatupa countered that the fact that semen was pumped from victims private parts shortly after meeting with Chipwatali was proof that a sexual assault had taken place.

“On top of that one state witness testified that she caught the clinician red-handed raping the patient and reported the matter to authorities,” Chatupa said.

Hospital sources told Nyasa Times that the patient has since been put on Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) because the clinician is already on life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) PEP is short-term antiretroviral treatment given within 72 hours to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure, either occupationally or through sexual intercourse.

This is not the first time for Chipwatali to be involved in abusing patients. In 2005, while working as a clinician at Blantyre’s main Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, he was caught with his private parts exposed, while attending to a female patient whom he had anaesthetised.

Another female patient also complained that she was raped by a medical worker while she was under anaesthesia. During a parade of suspects, the patient identified Chipwatali as the offender and some nurses corroborated her story.

The case was referred to the Medical Council of Malawi but he was acquitted on technical grounds.

Chipwatali was, however, severely reprimanded with recommendations that he be moved to another department of the same hospital.

There is no specific HIV and AIDS legislation in Malawi as the current laws cut across civil, criminal and constitutional laws.

But the Law Commission’s report proposes criminalizing the intentional and negligent (or reckless) transmission of HIV to another person.

“Any person who deliberately infects another person with HIV shall be guilty of any offence and shall be liable to imprisonment for 14 years,” the report said.

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