A British doctor working in Zimbabwe sent a baby boy
home just 75 minutes after an operation, the General Medical Council has
The 19-month-old infant died just hours after the
routine circumcision. He had been given high levels of morphine for pain
Dr Richard Gladwell McGown has denied serious
The GMC is hearing the case in London because the
doctor is on its medical register and is licensed to practice in the UK.
Dr McGown is also accused of failing to provide
proper care to a nine-year-old girl who died following an appendix
The GMC's professional conduct committee heard how
the baby boy - known as Child A - was admitted to Avenues Clinic in
Harare, Zimbabwe on 13 July 1988 for a circumcision because he had
Dr McGown, who was educated in Scotland, gave the
toddler an injection of morphine into the spine to relieve the pain
after the operation.
The committee heard that Dr McGown was fully aware of
the risks of associated with morphine injection.
According to GMC lawyers, he wrote an article in 1989
- the year after the boy's operation - stating that "under no
circumstances should a child be allowed to leave the care and support of
the hospital for at least 24 hours if given a caudal morphine injection".
Counsel for the GMC Joanna Glynn said Dr McGown's
decision to discharge the infant was indefensible.
"The decision to discharge him after 75 minutes was
wholly indefensible. It falls below the standards of a competent medical
practitioner," she said.
Dr McGown, who faced a criminal trial in Zimbabwe in
relation to the deaths, acknowledged that the high dose of morphien
contributed to the infant's death.
He told the GMC committee: "Had he not had this
anaesthetic, he would still have been alive."
But he added: "I have had great difficulties during a
criminal trial and during this hearing in trying to get across the fact
that large doses are not only permitted but required when using caudal
The father of the child - who was not named -
described how he was given no instructions on how to care for the baby
following the operation. He said he had not been told that his son had
been given morphine.
He described how Dr McGown handed him the child
following the surgery, saying: "He said: 'Here is your child. I've
brought him back from the dead.' It seemed like a joke."
The father, from Harare revealed how the baby was
irritable and later fell into a deep sleep.
He began vomiting yellow liquid and was taken back to
the hospital where he died, six hours after his operation.
Dr McGown is also accused of giving the patient an
excessive amount of morphine and failing to keep adequate anaesthetic
Ms Glynn told the disciplinary committee: "Neither of
these healthy children should have died. Their deaths were preventable.
"They were caused by culpable failures set out in the