[This is the heading of a press release issued today by the British Medical Journal. It reads as follows:]
Personal View: Lockerbie – why we should be proud of Megrahi’s doctors
A retired GP and father of a Lockerbie victim is publicly supporting the medical advice given to Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary, that led to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in August 2009.
Dr Jim Swire, who met Mr Megrahi in prison, has decided to speak out following allegations in the media that, now he has survived for seven months, this man’s illness was fabricated or at least exaggerated for some political or economic motive and that the doctors must have been “bought.”
His views are published on bmj.com today.
Mr Megrahi was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 as it flew over Lockerbie in December 1988. After the failure of his first appeal in 2002, he was transferred to a Scottish prison, but public opinion about the verdict remains deeply divided.
By August 2009, medical advice indicated that Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, only had three months left to live, and he was granted “compassionate release” by the Scottish justice secretary to return to his home in Tripoli.
“There were shouts of fury from those who had not looked at the evidence for themselves,” recalls Swire. “Some of these were the same voices who had urged that analgesics should be withheld from the suffering prisoner; one wrote to me that he hoped Al-Megrahi’s death would be a long drawn out agony.”
But he explains that MacAskill took advice from the prison medical service in Greenock prison as well as several senior doctors who “conferred before advising MacAskill that a likely prognosis for Al-Megrahi was about three months.”
He also points out that the two major changes in Al-Megrahi’s circumstances since his release – returning home to his family and receiving drug treatment together with radiotherapy – might well explain the dramatic and welcome improvement in his condition.
“I wish to support the advice that my distinguished medical colleagues gave to MacAskill,” says Swire. “By sticking to their patient oriented professional duty, the doctors contributed to a major relief for a dying man. We should be proud of them.”
He concludes: “When I last met this quiet and dignified Muslim in his Greenock cell he had prepared a Christmas card for me. On it he had written, “To Doctor Swire and family, please pray for me and my family.” It is a treasured possession by which I shall always remember him. Even out of such death and destruction comes a message of hope and reconciliation for Easter.”