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British Doctor Held For Alleged Tests on Zaire Patients

March 4, 1993

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A British doctor has been arrested after lawmakers claimed he carried out medical experiments on 500 mostly black patients, some of whom died.

One legislator likened his tests on black women and children to the Nazis’ experiments on Jews and Poles in concentration camps.

Dr. Richard Gladwell McGown, 57, born in India of British parents, was taken into custody by police at his luxury suburban Harare home Wednesday night, police said.

McGown, an anesthetist in Zimbabwe for several years, is to appear in court Friday. Charges may include murder, according to state prosecutors who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police allege McGown conducted medical tests using new drugs and anesthetics without the authority of the Zimbabwe Drugs Control Council and the knowledge of patients.

A parliamentary select committee investigating health services claims up to six of McGown’s patients died as a result of unauthorized drug experiments.

In interviews with investigating legislators, McGown denied any impropriety, according to the committee’s report.

″He was never moved at all. It was as though he was experimenting on cats and baboons,″ said Gibson Munyoro, one of seven lawmakers who took part in the investigation.

″He is a murderer of the first order,″ lawmaker Victoria Chitepo told Parliament. ″He should not be allowed to move freely because he could still be conducting experiments.″

The investigators said McGown admitted he was interested in testing black women under anesthesia. He wanted to establish their sensitivity to morphine injected into the membrane enveloping the brain and spinal cord.

The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Clara Nondo, said Thursday that several complaints have been made against McGown in recent years.

But each time, the Health Professions Council, a watchdog body for the medical profession, dismissed the individual cases, she said.

The council’s president, Dr. Roberts-Gray Choto, has urged doctors, police and lawmakers against making unsubstantiated accusations against professionals like McGown.

″Trading wild charges and acting irresponsibly could do irreversible damage to the profession, especially as we are suffering a brain drain,″ he said.