Prof Cyril Karabus, who was detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August last year after the death of a young patient in 2002, may be home at the end of February following the prosecutor’s decision to drop the major charge against him.
His attorney, Michael Bagraim, explained that the main charge against Prof Karabus was fraud and forgery, which he has denied and for which no evidence has been found.
“It was necessary in the opinion of the earlier court for Prof Karabus to have given a blood transfusion,” he said. “The earlier court said that the hospital file had indicated that a blood transfusion was given but that this file appeared to have been altered and, in fact, they said Prof Karabus did not give the blood transfusion and altered the file to fraudulently indicate the transfusion was given.
“Prof Karabus was given a three-year sentence, in his absence, for the guilty finding of fraud and forgery.
“Prof Karabus has denied that he altered the medical file and pointed out that if they drew the physical evidence of the blood platelets count, they would see that the blood count increase was commensurate with the patient having received the transfusion.
“This charge has now been withdrawn by the prosecution, as they cannot find any hospital file and cannot produce any documents to show forgery.”
The second charge was with regard to manslaughter, which follows on from the first charge, as if it was necessary to give the transfusion and if Prof Karabus did not give the transfusion, this led to the death of the patient.
“Obviously, the second charge flows from a guilty finding of the first,” said Bagraim, who is now hopeful that the case against Prof Karabus will be dismissed when it appears before court again on 27 February.
‘Beware’ says SAMA
Meanwhile, the case has drawn considerable attention to the potential dangers doctors face when they agree to work in the UAE.
SAMA has warned local health professionals, for the second time, against applying for positions in the UAE and has gone so far as to advise doctors already working in the UAE to withdraw their services to avoid the risk of a Karabus-type experience.
Prof Karabus (78), described by ex-colleagues as a humanitarian who showed great compassion in his work among disadvantaged children with cancer during the apartheid era, was only granted bail on his seventh court appearance and was originally brought into court in shackles.
In a formal statement, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, SAMA chairperson, said: “We advise South African doctors and other health professionals to avoid working in the UAE and would ask that those already there consider withdrawing their services in the interest of their own safety.”
In response, Mediclinic International, which operates two private hospitals with 334 beds and eight clinics in Dubai in the UAE, said in a written statement: “We currently employ around 13 doctors and 55 nurses from SA (our total staff complement being in the region of 2000 employees).
“None of our existing SA doctors or nurses have indicated that they wish to return to SA. So far, the incident regarding Prof Karabus has not deterred doctors and nurses from coming to Dubai and we have no problem recruiting most specialities from all over the world.”
It said it has lost ‘absolutely no’ nurses or doctors since the Prof Karabus case.
Although the company has been lobbying for a change to the federal laws operating in the UAE that allow for cases such as that against Prof Karabus, it is unable to speculate on whether SAMA’s call will have any impact on the move to reform laws and legal processes in that country.
“Because it is a federal law, it is not so easy to change, even if the authorities are sympathetic to our request. We have ongoing discussions with the regulating authorities regarding the complaint process against doctors.”