Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

A year ago when the Lockerbie bomber was given three months to live, the media weren't exactly inundated by oncologists and other cancer experts publicly challenging the prognosis.

Yet 12 months later we have numerous "cancer experts" saying "I told you so" or "I was always unwilling to give a three month prognosis". Truly, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So how accurate have these "experts" been up till now? Since 1993 24 prisoners in Scotland have been granted compassionate release on the basis that they only had three months to live. However, not a single one has died on the day when the three-month deadline was reached.

Seven prisoners (27 per cent) survived for more than three months. Seven died within days of release and one died in custody. If the three months were meant to be spent preparing for death, these latter prisoners were woefully short-changed by the experts who gave them a terminal prognosis. It also suggests that estimating time of death is at best a guess.

This reality is recognised within the US judicial system. There Megrahi would have been held in a federal penitentiary. Under the federal compassionate release scheme he would be entitled to release if he had a year left to live. However, the federal system also allows for release for terminal illnesses that do not "lend themselves to a precise prediction of life expectancy".

Strangely, this detail seems to have escaped the attention of those US senators who believe a prisoner failing to die as predicted represents a failure of the Scottish medical establishment.
Robert Menzies

[The above is the text of a letter in today's edition of The Scotsman. A letter from Labour MSP George Foulkes explaining how he has repeatedly called on Kenny MacAskill to break the law by publishing Megrahi's medical records can also be read there.]

1 comment:

  1. "the three-month deadline"

    There is no such deadline.

    The criterion is whether the prisoner is in the terminal phase of an incurable disease.

    Megrahi's terminal cancer was, and remains, incurable. The man is dying.