By Elesha George
Two healthcare workers who were charged with carrying out a botched circumcision on a five-year-old boy in 2015 have been found guilty of practicing general medicine and performing a medical procedure without a licence.
On Tuesday, Patrick Matthews, a chiropractor by profession and Arnold Joseph, an operating theatre practitioner, were found guilty of performing the surgical procedure without being registered or licensed to do so in Antigua and Barbuda.
Matthews, who posed as a certified doctor, was additionally charged with receiving $2,500, including consultation fees, to perform the service.
Their actions are in direct contravention of Section 12 (a) of the Medical Practitioners Act No. 3 of 2009 of the Laws of Antigua and Barbuda, which states that without possessing a valid licence, a person cannot practise medicine as a general practitioner, as a consultant or specialist in any area of medicine, recover fees for practising medicine, use the title Medical Doctor or the customary title abbreviation against his or her name, or sign a certificate that, by law, is required to be signed by a medical doctor.
High Court Judge Ann-marie Smith came to a verdict after considering the facts of the case and evaluating the unchallenged evidence presented by several witnesses.
A member of the Medical Council testified that neither of the health workers who participated in the circumcision had ever been licensed or registered to practice medicine in the country.
At least four witnesses, including two certified doctors who were invited to observe the procedure, placed both men at the scene of the crime.
Justice Smith also highlighted the fact that Matthews initially lied to police when he told them that the procedure was carried out by a competent certified team that included the two doctors, to hide his own involvement.
However, witness testimony proved that the doctors were only there to observe the surgery and played no part in the operation.
The judge also considered the fact that Matthews led the boy’s parents to believe that he was a certified surgeon. In fact, he told them about a past circumcision that he had allegedly successfully carried out on the son of the woman who recommended his service to the couple.
Bail was denied and the men were remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison until September 28 for sentencing. Their lawyers, Dr David Dorsett and Michael Archibald, have requested a social inquiry report (a report on a person’s character and circumstances) ahead of sentencing.
The two men face up to three years’ imprisonment, and/or a fine of $25,000 each.
What events led to the circumcision?
The boy’s parents were concerned that his foreskin was causing his penis to swell and so decided to get him circumcised.
The service of Matthews, who worked at the NSA Medical Centre in Woods Malls, was recommended by a friend, who said the man had also performed circumcision on her son.
When the parents met with Matthews, he assured them that he had performed this type of surgery before and that he used the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology which was pain free.
The parents reported that the child woke up during the procedure and had to be restrained and given more anesthesia. After the two and a-half-hour long procedure, they said Matthews sprayed lidocaine, a local anesthetic, on the circumcision.
However, later that night the boy began to complain about feeling pain in the circumcised area. The parents took him back to the doctor to assess the wound – on each occasion Matthews provided medication to manage the pain and had to administer stitches on at least one occasion. These visits lasted for about two weeks.
In one instance, the boy was experiencing itching and pain and Matthews recommended that he take a sea bath. The parents testified that the bath had caused the boys dressing to come off, causing the wound to bleed excessively.
For years, the boy remained with the results of the botched operation and it was only in 2019 that the now 11-year-old finally underwent corrective surgery in Barbados and was properly circumcised.