For the last 20 years, Dr. Raouf Amin el-Arabi, an Egyptian physician, has treated members of Saudi Arabia's royal family. According to Saudi and Egyptian sources, one of his patients, a wife of a nephew of King Abdullah, developed an addiction to a medication he prescribed.
Medicine is still as much an art as a science, and there's always a risk a diagnosis will be wrong or a patient will not respond to treatment as expected. The Saudis, however, blamed Dr. el-Arabi, 53, and brought him to trial for malpractice. As could be expected in a case of a foreigner vs. the royal family, he promptly was convicted. His sentence: Seven years in prison and 700 lashes.
Dr. el-Arabi appealed the sentence two months ago. The judge more than doubled it, to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes, to be administered at 70 per week. The Associated Press reported this month Dr. el-Arabi is being held in a jail in the city of Jeddah and has undergone at least one installment of the penalty.
Cruel and extreme though this "justice" may seem to Western sensibilities, the premise underlying all too many American malpractice cases is much the same: a doctor or hospital must be held to account when a course of treatment leads to a bad outcome, even if the doctor did the best he could.