10 August 2010
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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.