A Canadian firm that employed a doctor now detained in Abu Dhabi says it couldn't have helped him avoid being arrested because it didn't even know he was facing criminal charges for the death of a patient.
The 77-year-old doctor, South African cancer specialist Cyril Karabus, was flying home from his son's wedding in Toronto last month when he was detained on charges he knew nothing about, during a stopover at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Karabus didn't know that an Emirati court had sentenced him, in absentia, to 3 1/2 years in prison after the death of a patient he treated in 2002 while briefly employed in Abu Dhabi by a Canadian health company.
Toronto-based InterHealth Canada Ltd. was operating the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City at the time.
"At no time was ICL informed of any complaint in relation to Dr. Karabus's performance of his clinical duties; no complaint was made against either ICL or [the hospital] and no claim was made under ICL's medical malpractice policy," the company said in an e-mail Thursday after The Globe and Mail published a story about the doctor.
The physician's plight comes at a time when the UAE has become more concerned about medical liability as a booming economy has drawn more foreign medical practitioners to the small Gulf nation.
In 2008, the UAE enacted a new law on medical responsibility, under which physicians cannot practice without malpractice insurance. The law also says that health facilities that receive a visiting physician are responsible for compensating the damaged party, should medical malpractice occur.
However, InterHealth said in its e-mail to The Globe, malpractice insurance wouldn't have helped Dr. Karabus because such policies don't cover criminal cases.
Dr. Karabus's family says he has been charged with manslaughter and forging a medical document. Citing the UAE newspaper 7Days, InterHealth says he was charged with negligence and forgery.
Dr. Karabus is now being retried. His next court date is Oct. 11.
His troubles began in 2002 when InterHealth hired him to replace another cancer specialist, Lourens De Jager, who was leaving the hospital for five weeks. During that time, a young girl with leukemia died under Dr. Karabus's care. The father complained to police and charges were laid.
According to InterHealth, an Emirati cardiologist heard about the charge and notified hospital officials, who then asked Dr. De Jager to warn his colleague.
"The department head advised Dr. De Jager, who by that time had returned from vacation, of the position and instructed that he advise your father not to return to or pass through the UAE," InterHealth told Dr. Karabus's son, Matthew, in an e-mail shown to The Globe and Mail.
"…We fully complied with our obligations toward your father and see no basis upon which we can be considered liable."
Reached in Pretoria, Dr. De Jager, however, has denied that he knew about the charges.
The company says it had difficulty establishing what happened at the time because it ceased operating the hospital in 2003 and transferred records to UAE authorities.
Until the 2008 law on medical responsibility, liabilities was determined in accordance with the UAE's civil code, according an article by two experts at Clyde & Co., a law firm with offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.