Thursday, February 15, 2007

Heart Transplant Surgeon Suspected Of Murder In Poland

A respected surgeon specialising in heart transplants has been arrested on charges of murder and corruption, the head of Poland's Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) said Wednesday in Warsaw.

The evidence against the physician, identified only as Dr. Miroslaw G., head of the cardio-surgery department in Warsaw's elite Interior Ministry Hospital, is "shocking," CBA head Mariusz Kaminski said.

"It turns out that Dr. Miroslaw G. is a ruthlessly cynical bribe-taker. The evidence collected in this case indicates a murder may have occurred," he said.

Evidence suggests that last year the physician ordered life support systems to be cut off for one of his heart transplant patients after the patient's family refused to pay a bribe. The patient died immediately, according to a CBA statement.

About 30 per cent of the heart transplant patients under the physician's care died, according to Kaminski. Taking bribes from patients was common practise in the department, he said.

The surgeon was also charged with physical and psychological abuse of staff members, and corruption.

Evidence collected in the case include dozens of bottles of expensive alcohol, watches, fountain pens, cutlery and thick wads of cash in various currencies.

Poland's Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro confirmed Miroslaw G. was facing over 20 criminal charges and urged anyone who may have suffered at the hands of the physician to contact a special hotline.

The case has cast yet another dark shadow on Poland's chronically under-funded and corruption-ridden public health care sector.

A court in Lodz, central Poland, recently sentenced several medics to prison in the macabre so-called 'cash-for-corpses' scandal. In it, ambulance medics and doctors used the muscle relaxant Pavulon to kill emergency patients and then sold information about their deaths to local funeral homes.

Scandal of another kind recently hit a children's hospital in the south-western city of Wroclaw where a debt collector seized 8 million zloty (2.7 million dollars) from a debt-ridden public hospital, sparking a crisis in cancer treatment for children.

Poland's Ministry of Health intervened to ensure the hospital could pay for the expensive anti-cancer drugs needed to save the children's lives.

Women being treated for breast cancer in Warsaw's Oncology Centre were also told earlier this month their treatment would be terminated due to lack of funding.