10 August 2009

10 August 2010

<< previous: 9 August
next: 12 August >>

One year ago today a pivotal report on Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's health was signed and handed over to Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. The relevant section 3, progress record, was later released [PDF download page]. This is a three-page summary of separate medical reports, attached in a sealed envelope (not released). It was prepared and signed by Dr. Andrew Fraser, "Head of Health" for Scottish Prison Sevices at the time. His name is redacted in the online letter, but mentioned by Mr. MacAskill the same day in Scottish parliament.

Dr. Fraser's report dealt with Megrahi's advanced prostate cancer, mentioned the recent general consensus on its hormone resistance, and the resultant lowered life expectancy. This gave him a duration measured in months, generally around eight. But there was the one mention, on 3 August, of three months being "reasonable." Regardless of estimates, all relevant parties - prison social and health workers - stated they felt the "patient" was eligible for release on compassionate grounds. Dr. Fraser concurred and endorsed the idea.

Some of the language in the report would surely appall American family of the dead or the United States government, opposed to his going home any way but dead. (see 9 August). Doctors felt a return home to the bosom of his family "would benefit the patient," who was otherwise known as the convicted Lockerbie bomber. Such a repatriation would counter his "feeling of isolation," and they even consider Megrahi's belief that mood effects health. It was also noted his loving family would benefit from having the convict near at hand again.

All these things are doubtless true, and factors in his improved health and prolonged lingering. The report reflected a medical decision, not a political or even legal one. Mr. MacAskill would be the one to make the legal decision. And the one he finally made would appear, on the face of it, to be apolitical or politically damaging, by virtue of upsetting the Americans. As of 10 August he still had the power to say no to the recommendation, but was now armed with the advice that would allow him to say yes to sending Megrahi home.


Bunntamas said...

Hi Caustic,
Seems everyone in Scotland on Pr. Black's blog has gone to bed. I'm here in the US time zone w/ you, so thought I would pop over to your blog for a chat.
Boy, that's a tough crowd over there in Scotland.
Thanks, by the way for being so gracious there, in spite of my, at times, bumbling comments and defensiveness about a fellow family member.
Anyway, per my comments on Pr. Black's blog, I'm curiious to know your thoughts on the statements made on Monday's STV documentary, re: Megrahi's refusal to undergo the full range of medical treatment {chemo) available to him prior to decision to release.
IF he had undergone chemo, and IF his life expectancy would have been prolonged as a result of chemo, what then? Do you think MacAskill's decision and / or Dr.'s advisement would have been different? What are your thoughts on Megrahi's alleged refusal of treatment? I read elsewhere that Megrahi also refused meetings on his case as a result of being "miffed" with the direction in which his case was going. But perhaps I've convoluted the question(s) too much by adding that last bit. Let's start w/ the medical, and I'll give you details on the latter later.

Bunntamas said...

Dude, I just wrote a long post, and lost it. If this re-posts, sorry.
I'm curious to know your thoughts on the STV documentary commentary re: Megrahi's "alleged" refusal to undergo full range of medical tretment (chemo) available to him in Scotland.

Caustic Logic said...

Hey, I'm honored to have you pop in. I'm also just on my lunch break, so it'll have to be brief now. Luckily I didn't even watch the show and have little to say. I gather Megrahi hadn't yet done chemo and hoped to do so in Libya. It's a stretch, but possible, that he was refusing to do so until then. From reading the comments, it seems that's what the show argued and none too convincingly.

In fact, I'm not going to be very useful on that point. My knowledge of cancer treatment is limited to... it's really limited. What do you think? I'll be back within a couple hours and then up late here in Pacific time, as usual.

Caustic Logic said...

Wow, 53 comments already at that post. Skimming then ... "being game," not bad. I didn't see where you explained:
"Did any of you know that LAA was in charge of baggage / security for ALL of Luqa in '88?"

I'm guessing you embarrassingly confused air Malta and LAA. It's understandable, given the degree of complicity/subornation implied in Megrahi's plot being allowed to bloom like that unhindered. Your friend Frank Duggan seems to lean this way himself. (comments here)

IMO banter is totally appropriate to a charged discussion of this importance. I'm a little short on ideas for it, however, so ...

Caustic Logic said...

A comment from there that's relevant here:
My point about Megrahi's refusal of chemo was not about his mental state, or need start chemo soon, being w/ family, etc. It was about MacAskill's decision making process in the release. I do recognize that the media tend to blow things out of proportion, and indeed do have a tendancy to slant and mis-state. Regardless, my question is, Megrahi was diagnosed w/ cancer in (approx) Oct. of 2008. More than a FULL year prior to the decision to release. WHY was he not treated with chemo during that time? Had he undergone chemo while still in Scottish prison, and had MacAskill taken this into consideration (again, I don't know for sure if he did or not, do you? I haven't seen anything to this effect) regarding life expectancy, would his life expectancy been different? Why didn't any of the Dr.s mention this? If they had, might have MacAskill's decision to release been different?

I have to admit that's a good question, at least as far as I know. I once wondered if chemo was held back to artificially exaggerate the cancer and shrink his actual medical prognosis. But that's a logical construction, not anything I could support with medical or legal precedent.

And I have to say the information we have access to (unless you have something better) is too vague to clear much up about the finer points, even to someone who knows how to interpret the facts reliably.

I'm actually inclined to suspect a little shadiness here, but given how off I was accepting Dr.Sikora as a relevant player, I'm being cautious about the rabbit holes I go down.

The shadiness I suspect, to the extend I do, is geared towards getting something like '3 months to dead' said right around August 2009. That's three months before the second phase of three of Megrahi's appeal was set to start, in November. I don't have any proof, but I suspect that was mood music for a never-spelled out deal - an early prognosis and gravy time with family, so long as the appeal was surrendered. With the appeal ... who knows.

FYI for context - the whole not dead yet thing might not be suuuch a big deal. Recall three months is a general guideline, not a requirement. As the ONLY specific guideline, it's important, and the US position as conveyed interpreted it more firmly, but that might be their own fault.

And there was a wider consensus, the "informal mid-range estimate" of I think Sept. 2008, of 18-24 months. Exact presumptions made, etc. unknown. But we're coming up on the far end of that now, so don't presume too much about years upcoming.

And now that a discussion is rolling, I'll turn off comment moderation on newer threads here and run the risk of missing comments posted elsewhere. Don't let that draw you away from the JREF, however.