20 October 2012


An elderly South African professor, Cyril Karabus of Claremont, Cape Town, was arrested on August 18 at the Abu Dhabi International Airport while in transit to South Africa. He was detained and faces charges of manslaughter. Emeritus Associate Professor Karabus (77) was returning home after attending his son’s wedding in Canada. He specialises in paediatrics and medical oncology, and is a former Professor of paediatrics at UCT and head of the oncology and haematology unit at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

Twelve years ago he worked as a locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi and operated on a seven-year-old cancer patient who later died of leukaemia. He returned to South Africa two weeks after her death, at the end of his locum. In his absence he was tried and found guilty of manslaughter, even though no attempt was made to contact him and he was never given an opportunity to defend himself in court. He was sentenced to three years and six months in jail and required to pay blood money to the patient's family. The initial conviction was successfully overturned, but on October 3 a new trial for the same charges took place but the hearing was adjourned because the prosecutor could not find a crucial docket. Bail was denied. It is believed that the girl’s father laid charges out of anger. Professor Karabus did everything possible to save the child's life. He was being held in the hospital wing of the Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi because he had a pacemaker and needed medical attention. Bail was denied for a fourth time, and he was shackled at his last court appearance. Bail was finally granted at the fifth application. He had to surrender his passport, which was confiscated when he was originally arrested, and pay R240 000 to the court, which will be held as bond. His family have arranged accommodation for him in the UAE. The court also stated that the hospital had to give the Professor's lawyers access to the patient’s file, and ordered that an independent medical tribunal be established to review the file. The next court appearance is set for November 20. There is a petition on Avaaz and a Facebook page in support.

His son, Michael, lives in Toronto, and a daughter, Judith, lives in London. Professor Karabus has lived in the same house for 40 years. Numerous doctors have written letters to the UAE court testifying to the Professor's expertise and integrity. During his term as head of oncology at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital the mortality rate of children with leukaemia was reduced from 80 to 20 percent.