x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Doctor convicted of killing cancer patient, 3, denies guilt at retrial

South African doctor denies not giving Sarah, 3, critical blood transfusion and tells court that hospital records would prove his innocence.

ABU DHABI // A doctor accused of killing a three-year-old cancer patient by failing to give her a blood transfusion told a court that a simple check of hospital records would prove his innocence.

Cyril Karabus, a professor from South Africa in his 80s, told the Criminal Court that when he examined the patient, Sarah Adel, on October 14, 2002, her blood platelet levels were 1,000. He said that he gave her a blood transfusion and that the next day her count was 19,000.

“There is no way on the world the count would have gone from 1,000 to 19,000 without a blood transfusion,” he told the court, adding: “It would be easy to prove what I’m saying by checking blood records at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

“I gave her four units of platelets, there was an increase from 66 to 73 per cent in her blood cells from October 14 to 15.”

The little girl suffered from severe bleeding on her brain which required the doctor to operate on October 15. After surgery he warned her parents she might die. She was transferred to the intensive care unit and died on the 19th.

Prosecutors claim the bleeding was caused or made worse by a failure to provide a blood transfusion before the operation – a claim he denied.

“Unfortunately it happened despite the fact that she was given it [the transfusion] the day before.”

Others who operated on the girl also noted one of her main arteries was blocked, said the doctor, adding that such a blockage “could not be caused by a lack of [blood] platelets”.

“All I can say now is whatever caused her death it was not because I did not give her platelets of blood,” he said.

The court heard as that as no post-mortem had been carried out on the girl the cause of her death could not be conclusively verified.

The doctor said he had prescribed the girl antibiotics, “so we can’t be sure if the cause of death was infection, bleeding, or a blocked artery”.

Prosecutors claim that Mr Karabus tried to cover up his negligence by inserting statements into the patient’s medical file to make it look as though he did order the transfusion.

He responded that he had never seen the document they were referring to before arriving in court.

He said that the document they were referring to also appeared to have no record of his prescription of antibiotics – but said it was “easy to check with the pharmacy that I did prescribe these”.

He added: “And since they did not keep a complete record I cannot see how I am responsible for treating the child incorrectly.”

His lawyer, Khalfan Al Kaabi, insisted the document presented by the prosecution had been tampered with. He requested records from the hospital’s blood bank and the pharmacy to be presented to the court.

The judge then presented Mr Karabus with the testimony of a nurse who said she had not received any instructions to carry out the blood transfusion.

“She is lying,” replied the doctor.

The case was adjourned until October 11 when a verdict is expected.

The judge refused to grant Mr Karabus bail, despite his lawyer’s protestations that his client was “in his 80s”.

Mr Karabus left the UAE after the patient’s death and was sentenced in absentia to three years for forgery and one year for manslaughter and ordered to pay blood money of Dh100,000.

He said he left the country because his contract with SKMC ended on October 30, 2002 – about two week’s after the death.

He was arrested while returning to the UAE last August and was granted a retrial.

hdajani@thenational.ae