Mail & Guardian

Accused SA doctor appears in Abu Dhabi court

06 Dec 2012 17:29 | Glynnis Underhill

The 77-year-old South African, who is being tried in Abu Dhabi for the death of a patient under his care, has made a court appearance. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The 77-year-old South African, who is being tried in Abu Dhabi for the death of a patient under his care, has made a court appearance. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Cyril Karabus's daughter Sarah, a paediatrician in Cape Town, said the family was feeling "drained" as the original medical file that would show records of his treatment of the child is still missing.

"It did not go great this morning and he told me he will appear in court again next week," she said.

It was only on the fifth attempt by his lawyers to get him released that the frail and retired Karabus was finally granted bail in August.

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

As he wears a pacemaker and requires medication, the family is thankful that he is out of jail. His son Michael said they had considered it a breakthrough that the court ordered at his final bail hearing that the orginal medical file relating to the case must be produced by the hospital, and ordered that a specialist medical panel will be appointed to review it.

However, neither the original medical record, nor the specialist medical panel has yet been produced.

The retired medical specialist lives in Cape Town and was arrested on August 18 while in transit in 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 sadly died while under his care.

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

Karabus had not been warned by the 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 been found guilty of fraud and manslaughter, following the death of his young patient.

That verdict has since been set aside and Karabas is now on trial, but claims to be innocent of any wrong-doing.

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

Michael said his father is being charged with manslaughter, which comes with a possible six-month sentence and has also been charged with forging and inserting a document into the 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 the arrest of Karabus, and shown concern for the implications this case could have for others doing medical locums around the world.

View the original online publication here