Bail for SA doctor facing manslaughter charge in Abu Dhabi

Medical specialist Cyril Karabus's son, Michael. (David Harrison, M&G)

Medical specialist Cyril Karabus's son, Michael. (David Harrison, M&G)

On the fifth attempt by his lawyers to get him released, the frail and retired Karabus was finally granted bail on Thursday.

It is a huge relief for the family, who went to Abu Dhabi to apply for his bail more than two weeks ago and were heartbroken when they saw the internationally renowned specialist in paediatrics and oncology brought into court in shackles.

While they would have liked him to be released on Thursday, it was too late for the money to be sent to his lawyers before the court's deadline, his son Michael Karabus said.

"We are breathing a big sigh of relief," he said. "My father's bail was approved this morning and we have to pay the courts before they will release him. We are jumping through all the hoops to make sure he gets out on Sunday."

The courts are closed in Abu Dhabi on Friday and reopen on Sunday, said Michael.

A contact in Abu Dhabi has offered to house Karabus once he has been released.
Having a pacemaker, he requires chronic medication.

"We do have someone who has offered to have him stay at his home and members of our family will have to take turns going over to keep my father company and keep his spirits up," said Michael.

It will be a long wait for Karabus as his trial only begins on November 20 in Abu Dhabi.

Another breakthrough for the family is the court's order that the orginal medical file relating to the case be produced by the hospital and ordered that a specialist medical panel be appointed to review it.

"This will prove his innocence," said his daughter Sarah Karabus, a paediatrician in Cape Town."We are very happy that the file has been found. And we are so relieved he has been granted bail. It is wonderful news."

The retired medical specialist lives in Cape Town and was arrested on August 18 while in transit from Dubai to South Africa after attending his son Matthew's wedding in Canada. His arrest, the family later found out, had to do with a short locum he did just under a decade ago at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi. During this time, Karabus had treated a three-year-old leukaemia patient who died while under his care.

Tried in absentia
Sarah has since found out that the child had Myelocytic Leukaemia which is known to have a poor prognosis.

Karabus had not been warned by local authorities or the company that hired him to do a locum in Abu Dhabi that he was facing charges in the United Arab Emirates. Nor was he informed that he had also been tried in absentia in 2003 and found guilty of fraud and manslaughter following the death of his patient.

That verdict has since been set aside and Karabus is facing a trial but claims to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Karabus told his family he had done everything he could for the child, including giving her blood platelets in an attempt to improve her condition. However, he is being accused in court of not having given her the necessary platelets.

Michael said his father was being charged with manslaughter, which comes with a possible six-month sentence, and forging and inserting a document into the little girl's medical file, which would carry a sentence of three years. On top of these charges, there is an undetermined amount of "blood money" that his father could be required to pay the child's family.

Since his retirement, Karabus has done locums in the Middle East, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Medical professionals and organisations from around the world have expressed outrage at Karabus's arrest and shown concern for the implications this case could have for others doing medical locums around the world.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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