Missing notes mean case is postponed against doctor arrested during transit in United Arab Emirates

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 20 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7908
  1. Sophie Arie
  1. 1London

The hopes of freedom for Cyril Karabus, a South African paediatric haematologist accused of the manslaughter of a patient he treated in the United Arab Emirates 10 years ago, were dashed again on 20 November when a court postponed a hearing because of missing evidence.

Karabus, who is 77 years old and semi-retired, was detained as he travelled through the UAE in August and learnt that he had been convicted in his absence in 2003 for the death of a 3 year old girl who died from leukaemia while in his care.1 He is accused of failing to administer a crucial blood transfusion to the patient he treated while on a locum placement in 2002 and of then forging documents to indicate that the blood transfusion had been given. He denies this and says that a blood transfusion could not have helped the child.

The original conviction has been overturned and a new case opened in which Karabus, who has heart problems and has been granted bail, hoped to clear his name and to be able to return home.

Instead a judge postponed this week’s hearing until 6 December because of missing evidence, Sarah Karabus, his daughter, said.

The relevant notes in the patient’s file from the Sheikh Khalifa medical centre in Abu Dhabi have disappeared.

Michael Bagraim, Karabus’s lawyer in South Africa, now suspects that the notes no longer exist. He said that he had been told by legal representatives of the medical centre that the institution was ordered by the court to destroy the crucial notes after the professor was convicted in 2003. “This is very disturbing,” Bagraim told the BMJ. “Is someone going to try to recreate the file? There is something very untoward about this.”

The notes that have been made available cover only the patient’s treatment before Karabus’s arrival and several weeks before the girl died.

A special medical tribunal was supposed to review the patient’s notes, but it is not clear whether that panel has been appointed and what such a tribunal could achieve without access to the relevant notes.

“We are very angry and disappointed,” said Sarah Karabus. “This is a complete travesty of justice and violation of his rights. If there is no file there surely can be no case. It is very difficult to understand.”

The UAE government has so far not commented on the case, and UAE representatives in London had not answered questions before the BMJ went to press.

Karabus had built a strong reputation after working in many different countries. Medical bodies worldwide have expressed their concern to the UAE. The World Medical Association called this week for the government to ensure a fair trial. It said, “That means that his defence team must be given full access to all the evidence against him, which at the moment appears not to be the case. We are now asking the authorities in Abu Dhabi to ensure that all the relevant papers are made available to Professor Karabus.”

The British Medical Association wrote to the UAE’s minister of justice, Hadef bin Jua’an al Dhaheri, on 15 November urging the government to intervene but has not yet received a response.

The case has raised concerns for many medical professionals who undertake locum work in the UAE.2


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7908


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