Wednesday March 31 2010

Doctor gets lifeline after abortion

By Lydia Mukisa

The crowd at Buganda Road Court maintained their silence only long enough for the session to end.

But once out of the court, nearly everybody had an opinion on the sentence that Chief Magistrate Vincent Mugabo had just passed on medical practitioner Kenneth Sebakaki and Dr. Hassan Nawabul, a Pakistani national.
Mr Mugabo sentenced Sebakaki to 12 months in jail and Dr Nawabul to a fine of Shs1.5 million or six month imprisonment in default.

Their respective crimes? Performing an abortion in the case of Sebakaki and, for Dr Nawabul, procuring the said abortion for his girlfriend Betty Ajok. Ajok is now the late, having succumbed to a septic abortion with septicaemia at St. Mary’s Hospital in Gulu District, where she was referred to after a long spell at Kibuli Hospital in Kampala.

In contrast, the sentence given to the two men almost guarantees them a second lease of life.

Against oath
While passing the sentence, Mr Mugabo said Sebakaki acted contrary to the medical oath that he took to preserve life but still reasoned that the offender deserved compassion.

“As a reported first offender, I believe he deserves lenience despite the heinous crime committed that led to death of a young citizen of this country. I would accordingly sentence him to 12 months imprisonment,” held Mr Mugabo.

The Magistrate offered Dr Nawabul the same clemency, saying he showed remorse about procuring the abortion and was capable of reforming.

According to the judgment, the fine of Shs1.5 million is to be given to father of the victim, Mr Ocula Nakondi who has been commuting from Gulu to Kampala to attend court proceedings throughout the time the case has been before court.
Court heard that in May 2007, Dr Nawabul of Kansanga in Makindye Division procured the abortion for Ajok alias Sheila Aber.

Prosecution evidence shows that Ajok left the house rented for her and two siblings in Kansanga by her family to the house rented by Dr Nawabul, who was her boyfriend.

In the process, she conceived and an agreement was reached by the two to terminate the pregnancy.
Court heard that after the abortion, carried out at Sebakaki’s a clinic at Old Kampala, the health of the deceased deteriorated leading to a long hospitalisation at Kibuli Hospital and later a referral to Lacor Hospital.

The evidence before court shows that Sebakaki administered drugs to the deceased which caused her death. However, Sebakaki denied carrying out the abortion or treating the deceased.

“I do not treat pregnant women and I don’t carry out any surgeries at my clinic,” he argued.

Prosecution further produced evidence that Dr Nawabul offered the victim help on several occasions, including financing her admission at Kibuli Hospital, and contributing Shs3 million for burial expenses.

Dr Nawabul, however, denied any role in the abortion or ever being the deceased’s boyfriend.

He said the deceased approached him for a job but before presenting her CV and academic papers she started falling sick.

Court ruled that there is sufficient evidence to show that Dr Nawabul had taken the deceased as his girlfriend and rented for her a house.

However, Dr Nawabul will regain his freedom upon payment of Shs1.5 million and – by this time next year – Sebakaki will be a free man too.

According to the Penal Code, any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person any thing, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, commits a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.