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Report: Doctors not consulted over sick Lockerbie bomber's release

Four cancer specialists who treated the Lockerbie bomber for cancer were not consulted over his release from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, report says.
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Four doctors who treated the Lockerbie bomber for cancer were not consulted over his release from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, according to a report.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was freed in August 2009 because Scottish officials said he was believed to have only three months to live.

However, ahead of the first anniversary of the Libyan's release Friday, The Sunday Times newspaper in the U.K. said that none of the four cancer specialists had been asked about his release.

They were cited in a report on Megrahi's case by Andrew Fraser, the Scottish Prison Service's director of health and care, but their names were blacked out.

It was Fraser, who has been described as a "professional of unimpeachable integrity" by the Scottish government, who decided Megrahi had terminal prostate cancer and could die in three months.

The Sunday Times identified the four doctors listed in his report as Zak Latif, Megrahi's urologist; another urologist Geoffrey Orr; Richard Jones, an oncologist; and Grahame Howard, a senior doctor.

'It's a bit odd'
"I was surprised when I heard he was being released, because I wasn't really asked for my opinion ... it's a bit odd," Latif told the newspaper.

Latif added that he had not spoken to Fraser and was always cautious about making predictions about the amount of time a patient had to live.

"I don't know how he made the decision of three months," he told The Sunday Times. "I deal with prostate cancer all the time and I'm very reluctant to make any kind of prognosis."

Jones refused to comment, the newspaper reported, but it added that, according to Latif, Jones was not consulted either.

Orr retired in October 2008 and said he had not been in touch with the prison authorities since. "I would not even attempt to make a prognosis," he told The Sunday Times. Howard has previously said he was not surprised that Megrahi was still alive.

In the U.S., senators and others have become concerned that Megrahi may have been freed to help U.K. firms win lucrative oil contracts in Libya. Oil giant BP, which has rights to explore for oil off the Libyan coast, has admitted it lobbied the British government about a prisoner transfer deal between Libya and the U.K.

A bomb planted on Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, including 11 people on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper also reported that the prison doctor involved in the case had no specialist cancer knowledge.

It said Dr Peter Kay, who had only been identified by the Scottish government as an unnamed "primary care physician," had provided a report which informed the decision to release Megrahi.

Patient confidentiality
Dr Kay initially denied he had been the doctor at the prison in Greenock, where Megrahi was serving a life sentence. However, he later told The Sunday Telegraph: "You'll be aware of the hypocratic oath [on patient confidentiality]? I just can't say anything."

Two physicians employed by the Libyan government, Professor Ibrahim Sharif, a Libyan oncologist, and Professor Karol Sikora, an internationally respected cancer expert based in London, both concluded Megrahi was likely to die in three months.

In a statement sent to last month, Sikora said he had concluded there was a "high probability" of this happening.

But he said the Scottish authorities had used their own medical advice, saying that his report had been received too late to be considered.

"Arriving at an exact prognosis in prostate cancer is impossible as there are always some surprisingly long term survivors however bad the situation," Sikora said. "It is always difficult to convey the statistical chance of a specific medical event happening. There are an enormous number of variables involved."

"Death is ultimately caused by cancer causing the failure of a specific organ such as kidney, liver, lung or through a terminal infection," he said. "These are unpredictable events. This was made clear in my report."