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Embattled Dr. Karabus returns home safely to South Africa

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 3, 2013

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Retired pediatric oncologist Dr. Cyril Karabus, 78, is free after a nine-month ordeal in the United Arab Emirates’ justice system that attracted protests and warnings from the American Medical Association and other physician organizations worldwide.

During a vacation stopover in Dubai in August 2012, Dr. Karabus was arrested in relation to care he provided in Abu Dhabi a decade earlier on a locum tenens basis. He had been found guilty, in absentia, of manslaughter and fraud in connection with the case of a Yemeni girl with acute myelogenous leukemia who died after the family refused a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Karabus had no idea of the earlier conviction until his arrest.

He was released on bail in October 2012 and cleared by an Emirates medical committee in March. A judge subsequently acquitted Dr. Karabus of all the charges. But prosecutors continued to appeal the case. When those appeals failed, Dr. Karabus waited for weeks as the Emirates government failed to return his passport. That happened on May 14, and he returned home to Cape Town, South Africa, three days later, where he was greeted at the airport by a crowd of about 100 relatives, friends and well-wishers.

“It felt good to be home,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian. “I missed South Africa. It’s such a beautiful country. Coming in on the plane and seeing Table Mountain was wonderful.”

The AMA called the Emirates case “disturbing” and asked the State Dept. to investigate issuing a travel advisory to U.S. physicians who are considering practicing there. The World Medical Assn. in April adopted a resolution warning physicians to note “the legal risks of employment” in the UAE.

Dr. Karabus said he plans to continue working on a locum tenens basis — but not in the United Arab Emirates.

“Never again,” he told The Guardian. “It’s not the greatest place to be in trouble.”

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