The Herald, 1 February 1994

ANAESTHETIST Richard McGown is to be prosecuted in the High Court on five counts of culpable homicide, the Attorney-General, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed yesterday.

Cde Chinamasa said 40 witnesses could be called in the trial whose proposed dates were June 24 to August 5.

McGown’s lawyers Winterton, Holmes and Hill had been notified of the proposed dates.

McGown has been appearing at Harare Magistrates’ Court on remand on five allegations of murder emanating from his alleged unauthorised anaesthetic trials between 1986 and last year.

He was alleged to have used a method of administering anaesthetic drugs to patients undergoing operations at Parirenyatwa Hospital and Avenues Clinic in Harare that had not been approved by the Drugs Control Council.

When a person is convicted of culpable homicide, it means the court has found that person was to blame for the death although there was no intent to kill.

An intention to kill, either actual or constructive, forms the core of the graver murder charge.


As global nations fight the Covid-19 pandemic, questions on ethical conduct become centre stage. Are medical practitioners following the Hippocratic?

On June 9, 2019 Daily News (Zimbabwe) newspaper, carried the headline: “Doctors under scrutiny as negligence claims rise . . . collapsing health services, poor working conditions cited”.

While the latter is true, it is also evident that some health professionals are getting away with criminal negligence, and Zimbabweans wonder whether the Hippocratic Oath is still being followed, and what role professional associations play in ensuring that ethical standards are upheld.

Dr Richard Gladwell McGown, together with Dr Joseph Michael Swango are two 20th Century medical practitioners whose malpractices in Zimbabwe and other countries earned them the name “Dr Death.”

Then Attorney-General Patrick Chinamasa described McGowan the British doctor in court, presided over by Justice Paddington Garwe as a “messenger of death stalking our hospitals”. McGown was investigated on “allegations of negligence, gross incompetence and disgraceful conduct.”

McGown practised medicine in Sweden, Zambia and Zimbabwe. His victims are two to five. He was accused of administering “dangerous doses of morphine.”

Although McGown pleaded not guilty, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison, six of which were suspended. Was this a mockery of justice?

Both the Health Professions Council of Zimbabwe and the British Medical Association struck off McGown from their registers and he was banned from practicing medicine in the world.

Another serial killer who operated under different aliases is American Dr Swango who was at Mnene Lutheran Mission Hospital where patients were dying mysteriously (1994-1995) through poisoning. He allegedly killed between three to 60 victims from 1981 to 1997.

Swanko is currently serving three life terms without parole in the United States.

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