[This is the heading over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today's edition of The Herald. It reads as follows:]
It has always been my hope that something good could be made to come out of the carnage and destruction of the Lockerbie horror – something to hearten rather than depress all of us.
Many voices, particularly in the US, have been raised to deplore the fact Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi has not died, as statistically he should have done within about three months of his compassionate release; such sentiments are not good.
Libya has a primary healthcare system not unlike our NHS. The secondary care is very different. Libya is too small (its population being around five million) to support world-leading complex secondary care, and the research teams that go with it, so that where complex secondary care is needed, in selected cases the patient may be flown to a centre of excellence, often in Europe or even occasionally America. In some cases, foreign experts are called in to advise or treat in Libya.
A year ago Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s Justice Secretary, received advice from Scottish Prison Service doctors and other international cancer experts that Megrahi had a roughly 50/50 chance of living three months. Over the past year, the Libyan regime has become increasingly reticent in talking about Megrahi, so even those of us with special interests in his health are ignorant of what treatment he may have received. It is evident his survival is very important to the Libyan regime; therefore, we can assume the best medical expertise in the world has been called to his bedside. It is for Megrahi to have privacy over his treatment and condition for now.
Mother nature has provided that roughly half the population of Scotland and Libya are men, and thus susceptible to cancer of the prostate gland. Prostate cancer in some form would be commonly found if men of Megrahi’s age were examined in detail. Of these, most will have inactive cancers. Megrahi’s cancer was an aggressive form and had spread to his bones before he left Scotland, where conventional treatment had been offered, had failed and hence his lifespan then was reasonably estimated to be about three months.
He has now had time to benefit from the best cutting-edge research and treatment available in the world, most probably from America, possibly stem cell.
Let us invite the Libyan regime to let the world know (when the time is right) what treatment this remarkable survivor received, so that not only the 2.5 million men in Libya, and the same in Scotland, but the three billion men worldwide can know there is new hope against this cancer.
Because the Libyan oilfields are being revitalised by modern technology, with Lockerbie sanctions long lifted, their national income is rising steeply. Libya might be prepared to fund a new world-class research agency for cancer treatment to attract the best physicians in the world. Perhaps the US senators, alleged to be seeking information about Megrahi’s treatment, could also put their weight behind such a project. Bids might start at around $2m – the amount allegedly used to bribe Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who identified Megrahi in the first place.
Such a centre could lessen the load of loss for Lockerbie relatives, something benign to remember along with the horror. Maybe the Libyan regime would consider underwriting such a world-class centre, perhaps through the United Nations’ World Health Organisation, and maybe with a title to remind us that sometimes, just sometimes, good can come even out of such evil.
I know our Flora would have approved of such a project.
[The other readers' letters published under the same heading are also worth reading.]