Megrahi not faking cancer, says Lockerbie relative

Abdelbaset Megrahi Jim Swire

GP father of one of the 270 bombing victims says Megrahi’s survival can be explained

BY Jack Bremer LAST UPDATED AT 18:46 ON Wed 31 Mar 2010

The conspiracy theorists who believe the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, somehow faked terminal cancer in order to get out of jail, have received a blow from the father of one of the victims.

Jim Swire, a former GP who lost his daughter, Flora, in the 1988 bombing, has written in the British Medical Journal that it is quite common for cancer patients to live longer than doctors expect, and that it was right that Megrahi should have been freed last August on compassionate grounds.

The go-ahead for his hugely controversial release was given by Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill after three specialists who visited Megrahi in Greenock jail on July 28 concurred that he was suffering from metastatic prostate cancer and had only three months to live.

The conspiracy theory gained ground before Christmas when victims' families and politicians opposed to his release began to realise that Megrahi was not only still alive but, according to some reports, improving. If the specialists had been correct in their prognosis, he should have been dead by the end of October 2009.

As The First Post has reported, the longer Megrahi lives, the louder the cries grow that he got away with murder. Reports from Tripoli last month described him living in a villa in the suburbs of Tripoli, with a policeman guarding his home while he welcomed visitors in a tent in his garden. The fact that he refused to give consent for his medical records to be published, only fuelled the conspiracy theory.

Dr Swire says in the BMJ that the "dramatic and welcome improvement in his condition" can be attributed to the simple benefits of returning home to his family and/or to the course of Taxotere treatment he is reported to have received since he returned home.

"We know that a major reduction in stress will sometimes induce a major remission, even in a terrible progressive illness such as his," says Dr Swire.

"Secondly, he has undergone a course of treatment in Tripoli with one of the taxol series of drugs, together with palliative radiotherapy. These can be associated with remissions of many months."

One of the three specialists who advised MacAskill on Megrahi's release, the oncologist Karol Sikora, told the Times he supported Swire's view. "It is very difficult to predict when any cancer patient is going to die," he said. "Given how rapidly the cancer has spread [Megrahi] has been very lucky if it's slowed down.

"Patients can benefit when they are surrounded by loved ones and actively want to live longer to spend time with them. We [doctors] all see cases like that, where it appears to be mind over matter."

However, both Sikora and Swire have their own agendas. Sikora has had to consistently defend his advice to MacAskill, while Swire has long argued that Megrahi was wrongly convicted on suspect evidence.

Sikora told the Times: "I get the odd hate mail, Jim [Swire] gets hate mail... but I think we can fully justify the decision made to colleagues and the public." · 

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