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Tribunal Says Dutch Medical Confidentiality Law Prevented Them From Telling

According to The Hague Tribunal, Dutch law prohibits physicians from telling their patients the results of their own blood tests. At least that is the Hague Tribunal's excuse for withholding vital medical information from Slobodan Milosevic shortly before his death.

In an attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for Slobodan Milosevic's death, the Hague Tribunal issued a report last Wednesday entitled "Report to the President; Death of Slobodan Milosevic". The report was written by Kevin Parker, the Vice-President of the ICTY.

Milosevic's supporters have speculated that Milosevic was murdered by poisoning, while the Tribunal's supporters have speculated that he committed suicide.

According to the Hague report, neither of these theories is correct. According to the Autopsy carried out by Dutch authorities, "The toxicological investigation showed no toxicologically identified factors which could induce a heart attack. Therefore, no (additional) factors were found which would explain why the heart attack occurred precisely when it did." The conclusion was that "Slobodan Milosevic, aged 64, appeared to have had severe anomalies of the cardiac muscle and coronary arteries, which resulted in a heart attack. This heart attack fully explains the death."

The Hague report says that "no poisons [were] found in Mr. Milosevic's body, [but] that a number of medicines, which had been prescribed for Mr. Milosevc had been found, but not in toxic concentrations, and that no traces of rifampicin had been found after the autopsy."

In spite of the fact that nothing was found in his body other than his prescribed medicine, and in spite of the fact that the autopsy concluded that he died because of "severe anomalies of the cardiac muscle and coronary arteries", the Hague report spends a lot of time dwelling on allegations that Milosevic was not taking his prescribed medicine, or that he was taking medicines not prescribed. Such allegations can only be viewed as red herring intended distract the reader from more crucial questions, as they have no bearing on Milosevic's death.

The most pressing question is whether Milosevic could have been saved if the Tribunal had allowed him to receive heart surgery in Moscow. According to his Russian physician the answer is yes.

The Hague report quotes Prof. Leo Bockeria, the Head and Chairman of the Bakoulev Centre for Cardiovascular Surgery in Moscow, as saying, "the patient died because of myocardial infarction due to narrowing of the LAD [left descending artery] and muscular bridge over that vessel. He could be treated easily at any place of the world either by minimally invasive surgery on the beating heart or by angioplasty and stenting."

In fact, in Paragraph 65 of The Hague Report, the Tribunal admits that heart surgery at the Bakoulev Centre was proposed by a group of five doctors retained by Milosevic as far back as December 2005.

However, the Tribunal attempts to avoid responsibility for Milosevic's death by relying on opinions offered by Dr. Leclercq from France, and a Dr. Tavernier from Belgium.

Dr Tavernier expressed the view that "there is no test that if carried out would have helped detect or prevent the cause of death. When you have a heart hypertrophy and a high blood pressure you have to change your life-style and take your medications. Having taken additional tests would not have resulted in new recommendations or changing the prescribed medications."

The Hague Report quotes Leclercq as saying, "unfortunately, the possibilities of preventive treatment are almost nil."

It must be noted that Tavernier and Leclercq are offering these opinions at the request of the Tribunal AFTER Milosevic's death.

The fact that a group of five expert doctors recommended surgery at the Bakoulev Centre as far back as December 2005 stands unopposed in The Hague Tribunal's report. It is also an uncontested fact that the Trial Chamber denied Milosevic's request to to receive medical treatment in Moscow. Finally, it is not contested that the Russian physician who would performed the surgery has claimed that it would have saved Milosevic's life.

Not withstanding the opinions of Leclercq and Tavernier, it is clear that Milosevic died because the Tribunal would not let him have the medical treatment that he needed.

Another disturbing aspect of the Hague Tribunal's report deals with the presence of rifampicin in Milosevic's blood. According to the report, Milosevic was given a blood test on January 12, 2006 by Dr. Falke, and rifampicin was found. Rifampicin was not prescribed to Milosevic, and it would have had the effect of blocking medicines that he was taking to keep his blood pressure under control.

The Hague Report claims that Milosevic was not told the results of the blood test until March 3, 2006. However, in Milosevic's letter to the Russian Foreign Ministry he says that he was not informed until March 7th. At any rate, paragraph 76 of the Hague Report literally says, "Mr. Milosevic was not told of the results until 3 March 2006 because of the difficult legal position in which Dr Falke found himself by virtue of the Dutch legal provisions concerning medical confidentiality."

I found it difficult to believe that Dutch law prohibits a doctor from telling his patient the results of their own blood test, so I checked with a Dutch lawyer and a Dutch physician. They both told me that there is absolutely no provision in Dutch law that prohibits a doctor from telling a patient the results of his own blood test.

The original question still stands, why wasn't Milosevic told the results of his blood test in a timely fashion? The Hague report only adds the additional question; why is the tribunal lying to cover-up the answer?

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