Medical professionals and organisations from around the world have expressed outrage at the arrest of Cape Town’s Professor Cyril Karabus.
Karabus, 77, of Claremont, is imprisoned in Abu Dhabi on charges of manslaughter. He was arrested on August 18, while in transit in Dubai to South Africa, from his son’s wedding in Canada.
A former professor of paediatrics at UCT, Karabus is an internationally “well-respected medical figure” who specialises in paediatrics and medical oncology.
He also headed the oncology and haematology unit at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
While working as a locum 12 years ago at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, he operated on a three-year-old cancer patient who later died of leukaemia.
In his absence he was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. His lawyer, Michael Bagraim, said no attempt was made to contact Karabus.
A family member said yesterday letters and e-mails expressing “outrage and support for Karabus’s integrity and reputation” had been received from organisations such as the World Medical Association, the SA Haemophilia Federation, the SA Medical Association, the Western Province blood transfusion service and the School of Child and Adolescent Health at UCT.
Karabus’s initial conviction was overturned, but on October 3 he would stand trial again for the same charges.
: “There is incredible support coming from all over the world.
“It’s amazing how many people are making contact and offering to help, including paediatrics students whom he has trained over the years.”
He said donations towards Karabus’s legal costs have been pouring in. “Patients and students he has helped over the years are donating, some with as little as R100 … people just want to help in anyway they can … it’s phenomenal.”
Karabus, who depends on a pacemaker for his heart, is in the jail’s hospital wing because of his medical needs.
Bagraim said Karabus’s wife and son had flown to Abu Dhabi on Friday. They had reported that he “was his usual cheerful self”.
He said Karabus was keeping himself busy by playing chess.
In an e-mail to Bagraim, Dr Philip Lanzkowsky, from New York, expressed his shock at the arrest.
Karabus took over from him as chief of paediatrics at the Red Cross Children’s hospital in 1965.
“I have been an expert witness in some landmark malpractice suits concerning childhood malignancies including leukaemia,” Lanzkowsky said. “It is an unfortunate fact that children with leukaemia often die from the disease, complications of the disease or complications of therapy.”
A Facebook page named Prof Cyril Karabus has been opened to rally support for a petition on www.avaaz.org. It has been signed by 3 660 people and the number is rising.