South African doctor cleared of UAE manslaughter charge

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A doctor detained in the UAE on a manslaughter charge dating back to 2002 has been released after medical experts found he was not guilty of wrongdoing

A doctor detained in the UAE on a manslaughter charge dating back to 2002 has been released after medical experts found he was not guilty of wrongdoing

A doctor detained in the UAE on a manslaughter charge dating back to 2002 has been released after medical experts found he was not guilty of wrongdoing.

South African Cyril Karabus, 77, a leading paediatric oncologist was accused of killing a three-year-old leukaemia patient while working in Abu Dhabi more than a decade ago, and was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail and ordered to pay AED100,000 (US$27,226) without his knowledge in 2002.

Karabus was arrested at Dubai airport in August last year as he changed flights on his way home from his son’s wedding in Canada, and in the intervening months has had bail denied four times, as well as having his case postponed thirteen times.

Following the meeting of a medical review committee comprising nine doctors on Monday, Karabus was cleared of any wrongdoing and subsequently found not guilty by the court on Thursday.

Speaking after the committee’s decision, Karabus’s daughter, Sarah, also a paediatrician, told the Times of South Africa: “Their conclusion was that there was no negligence, that my father’s treatment was correct and they recommended that he be absolved.

“It is wonderful. We are absolutely ecstatic.”

The South African government has been pleading Karabus’s case since his arrest, and spokesperson for the international relations department, Clayson Monyela, said: “We see this as a vindication of what the professor was saying all along.

“We as a government also feel vindicated.”

Karabus’s arrest came about after an operation he performed on a young leukaemia patient, Yemeni girl Sarah Adel, while he was a locum at Sheikh Khalifa medical centre in Abu Dhabi. When the child died, Karabus was tried in absentia and found guilty of manslaughter and falsifying medical documents – charges he was unaware of until his arrest in August.

Having only been granted bail at the fifth time of asking, there had been concerns over the doctor’s health. Upon his arrest, his lawyer Michael Bagraim had said: “He is almost 78 and he has a pacemaker and a stent because of problems with his heart. He appears to have his spirit broken as well. Yet the man has not done anything wrong.”

Earlier in his career Karabus had pioneered treatment for cancer and blood disorders at the Red Cross hospital in Cape Town, where he worked for 35 years, as well as training doctors at Cape Town University. He won international praise for treating black children during the apartheid era.

Karabus will now leave the UAE and return home to South Africa.

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Posted by: Peter Johnstone

Sadly, this case has drawn the (medical) world's attention to the UAE's legal framework (or the lack of transparency thereof). It may not have been reported locally in the GCC, but a number of countries' medical councils have warned their nationals from working in the UAE - as a direct result of (the shambles of) this case. I hope, if nothing else, that this case will cause the authorities to re-look at the way the legal system works in the specific context of workers in the medical field. I am glad - together will thousands of medical professionals around the world - that Doctor Karabus has been allowed to return to his home of Cape Town.

Posted by: Stephen Ballantine

Peter's comments -in essence- involve 2 main points of principle. 1. what is the benefit/harm if we were to de-criminalise cases of medical malpractice and 2. whether criminal medical malpractice cases are appropriate to be dealt with in absentia. The criminal law provides the retributive function- as opposed to the compensatory function of tort/civil law- on the public accountability of physicians. Every country criminalises it to a degree. In some countries "gross" rather than "simple" negligence is criminal. In the UAE, even "simple" negligence- causing death or permanent disability- may attract criminal liability. With the UAE legislating for compulsory malpractice insurance and the doctrine of vicarious liability, physicians are -effectively- insulated from the financial aspects of their negligence by insurance policies and employers- deterrence is arguably maintained by the potential for criminal liability. In absentia trials are anathema to common lawyers re natural justice




Posted by: Mr Khan

Why didn't the AB journalist give an explanation as to why the case delayed 13 times

Posted by: Solly

Because, if you have ever had dealings with UAE courts, you will know that multiple postponements and adjournments are common and reasons are normally not given.

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