Megrahi's Three-Month Prognosis

Caustic Logic
April 4 2010
last update July 12

I wanted to bump this old aimless post as a spot to sort out details on Megrahi's prognosis, with links to other posts on specific aspects.

- Confusion over who was responsible for the prognosis are addressed here: Dr.Karol Sikora does appear to be the "one doctor" who was willing to say three months.

- Dr. Karol Sikora has some troubling suggestions of being a "hired gun" and his findings being suspect. He was paid by Libyan clients in mid-2009 when he reached the prognosis he understood them to want. That's clearly troubling from a standpoint of professional ethics.

- Then Dr. Sikora was unfortunately quoted July 4 ruminating that hypothetically, "there was always a chance he could live for ten years, 20 years . . . But it's very unusual." It was July4. "British Petroleum's" oil was/is still gushing into the Gulf. BP had also lobbied for Megrahi's release. Somehow...the story resonnated and sparked a s**tstorm of fury and indignation and words.

- Four senators wrote to the UK ambassador in DC, Nigel Sheinwald July 8, asking for an investigation. Rebuked, they called on the State Department July 12 to press for Megrahi to be put back in jail.
Original Test, April 4
The 21-year old Lockerbie case has enjoyed an increased profile over the last six months, and that has of course been due to the early release, last August, of convicted conspirator Abdelbaset al Megrahi. Have no doubt, innocent though he surely is, the man was legally convicted and stands legally guilty (right?), and was released with that assumption, based on something disbelievingly quoted in quotes as, quote, "compassion." Meaning, to so many minds, some Scottish (?) greed for Libyan oil, or something.

But in fact, as they know, the compassionate release was based on al Megrahi's prognosis of terminal prostate cancer, set to kill him within three months. Scottish law demands a prisoner with three months or less to live should be allowed to die at home - compassion, if not for the prisoner, than for his innocent family. People were angered immediately that mr. Megrahi should be given that privelege when the people he was convicted of killing recieved no such "compassion." And as three months stretched to four, five, six, and now seven, with conflicting reports and opinions on his life expectancy from here, well, people might start wondering if he could be taken back to jail...

I'm no expert on the relevant laws, nor on the medical angle, nor on oil negotiations where Libya demanded its terrorist back. So I won't even try for an eludicating post on this for the moment. Rather, I'm hoping this time for comments from other readers. It's been a hot issue at Professor Robert Black's blog The Lockerbie Case recently.  But for my own part, to start or in case no one else comments here...

I understand there is some room for improved condition with family support and a home environment that would turn three months into something longer. But it's starting to push that envelope as well, and as I've said elsewhere, I can also see the logic of manipulating the science to fit a political agenda. I of course see it less as trading terroritst for oil as trading a framed patsy home-death for the dropping of his appeal. After he released his appeal documents to the court of public opinion instead, it became confusing why he dropped it with such an amazing case and a third try at clearing his name - unless he knew it was required in order to leave.

And then there are the valid question about the diagnosis. Perhaps these two questions of political medicine and perplexing surrender answer each other?

The Scottish Governments deny any connection to the release aside from the 3-month prognosis - it was decided on the medical records only. To my knowledg no one had specified if the diagnosis itself (or rather its acceptance) was the result of any such deals ...

There are numerous related issues here - Megrahi's secret meeting with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, the medical details of the diagnosis, the (still?) unnamed doctor originating the opinion, the dropping of Megrahi's appeal so soon after the prognosis, the relation between Prisoner Transfer Agreements, compassionate release, standing appeals, Megrahi's understanding and his legal team's maneuvers, and, yes, UK political concerns, Libyan relations, oil and business deals, etc. Here are some excellent insights on the PTA phase of talks from Professor Black, from his own dealing between Libya and the UK government.



Michael Follon said...

In the second paragraph you write:

'...,set to kill him within three months.'

For clarification here are some extracts from the report by the Medical Officer at Greenock Prison regarding the application for compassionate release by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi -

'It is very difficult to be precise on matters of prognosis for any disease and Mr. Megrahi's condition is no different.
Whether or not prognosis is more or less than 3 months, no specialist "would be willing to say".
The clinical assessment, therefore, is that a 3 month prognosis is now a reasonable estimate for this patient.'


My own understanding is that Mr. Megrahi was given permission to drop his appeal following his application to do so. At that point he was uncertain as to whether he would be released through the Prisoner Transfer Agreement or Compassionate Release and just wanted to spend whatever time he had left of his life with his family.

Caustic Logic said...

Mr. Follon, thanks for a quite useful comment. Those quotes don't entirely seem to line up - no one can say if it's more than three months, or any time, so it could be less than three? I've got that PDF now and will review it.

On permission granted, first I'm sure it was enthusiastically given. Second, on the timeline, I think I got this from Wikipedia:
On 24 July 2009, Al Megrahi's legal team made a request for him to released from prison on compassionate grounds. Although it was not a precondition for compassionate release, his defence counsel lodged a request to abandon his second appeal on 12 August 2009, shortly after his private meeting with the Justice Secretary in Greenock jail on 4 August 2009. The abandonment of Megrahi's appeal was accepted by the High Court of Justiciary on 18 August 2009. [4]

He was released two days later. Of course it's been said he was trying to facilitate a possible PTA with this, as an open appeal will block that happening. But hadn't that been ongoing for quite a while, with the appeal process open the whole time? Only AFTER they've tried switching to the track that DOES allow an open appeal (AFAIK), is the appeal dropped. 19 days after filing for CR, 8 days after meeting MacAskill, 6 days before the acceptance of no appeal and 8 before walking out. And yet, we're to believe dropping the appeal had nothing to do with the release, arising only from Mr. Megrahi's own mysterious whims. Hmmm...

It's possible he decided to just cash in all his chips in a desperate flailing bid to secure his release in as many ways as possible. However, that contradicts the shrewdness he's shown before and after, and I'm thinking he had some more concrete clues that the appeal and his freedom were linked.

I'd also guess that he had it in mind, while deciding to drop the official appeal, that he'd release his case to the world. But these are just guesses.

Caustic Logic said...

This was a poorly-conceived discussion starter. It only works where it does in the blogosphere, sporadically, when eat least two chatterboxes collide at the same time.