x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Timeline of the case of Cyril Karabus

The manslaughter charge against the South African doctor was launched long after girl's death in 2002.

ABU DHABI // Sara Al Ajaily was three when she suffered a brain haemorrhage, fell into a coma and died in her bed at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

First admitted to the hospital in April 2002, Sara was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and started a round of chemotherapy on June 24, ending two weeks later.

Further assessment on September 5, by Dr Lourens de Jager, her South African physician, revealed the treatment had not been successful.

Almost two weeks later, on September 19, Dr Cyril Karabus, a world-renowned paediatric Haematological and oncologist from South Africa, took over Sara's case after joining the hospital as a locum on a six-week contract while Dr de Jager took annual leave.

Between September 21 and October 19, according to a copy of Sara's medical evaluation provided by Dr de Jager, she received two rounds of chemotherapy (on September 22 and October 2), over a dozen units of platelets and several units of red blood cells.

After failing to respond to treatment, and displaying signs of a brain haemorrhage, the toddler was taken to the intensive-care unit at the hospital on October 15.

Several days later, after being taken off most of her medication, she died, at 3am on October 19.

According to the evaluation for the patient, the haemorrhage on the left side of her brain was unexplained.

A fever, possibly brought on by infection, could have exacerbated the brain bleeding, although a biopsy showed no sign of infection.

Several weeks later, on November 1, Dr Karabus left his post at the hospital and the country after his contract came to an end.

Almost a year and a half later, on March 23, 2004, Dr Karabus, then aged 68, was found guilty of forgery and manslaughter.

The charges earned him a total of four years in prison and a fine of Dh100,000, to be paid to the Yemeni girl's family as blood money.

The judgment from Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance charged the doctor, now 77, in his absence with falsifying documents to show he had provided Sara with platelets.

"He wrongfully caused the death of 'Sarah Abdulla Mohammed' as a result of his violation of professional ethics as he failed to give the victim the required platelets precipitating her death as indicated in the papers," the court report said.

Two witnesses - Sara's father, Adel Abdulla Mohammed, and Yehia Rabai, an Egyptian medical examiner - were listed on the report as backing up the charges.

Mr Mohammed, 42, a Yemeni working for Albahia Trading, was told of the forgery by a nurse at the hospital, Rillin De Liola, who is still unknown to the case.

"On October 15, 2002, a nurse called Rillin informed him of his daughter's death as a result of a brain haemorrhage and that the defendant failed to provide her with the required platelets to save her and stop the haemorrhage," the report said.

Unaware of the 2004 hearing, Dr Karabus was arrested last August at Dubai airport, on his way home to South Africa after attending his son's wedding in Canada.

He was stopped by airport officials as he tried to make his way through immigration checks with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, on August 18.

The doctor, who has a pacemaker, was separated from his family, arrested and taken to Al Wathba Prison, where he remained in the medical unit for 57 days.

Released on bail in mid-October last year, he was given a retrial.

Since being bailed, there have been 13 adjournments because of a delay in the presentation of a report from the Higher Committee for Medical Liability, appointed to give its verdict on the case against the doctor.

The delay was the result of human error, Abu Dhabi Criminal Court was told in December, after Sheikh Khalifa Medical City staff overlooked a set of medical notes that had been requested for the committee to review and use to help present its findings.

On Tuesday, the committee cleared Dr Karabus of any wrongdoing in the treatment of Sara, a verdict that was echoed by Abu Dhabi Criminal Court yesterday morning.