The surgeon who allegedly botched an operation and nearly killed Slovak President Rudolf Schuster last year has been charged with causing bodily harm.
But he may go unpunished if the president sticks to his promise to grant a pardon to anyone involved in the near tragedy.
A spokesman for the police department's investigation team, Stanislav Ryban, said October 29 a man had been charged. But he refused to name the surgeon and said the Interior Ministry had put an information embargo on the case.
Under Slovak law, a doctor convicted of causing bodily harm can face up to five years in prison.
In June last year Schuster had to be airlifted to an hospital in Innsbruck, Austria in a dramatic last-ditch attempt to save his life.
After he was admitted to a Slovak Interior Ministry hospital June 14 with abdominal pains, doctors at first said he had eaten something bad. Four days later, however, surgeons discovered he had a ruptured colon and he immediately underwent emergency surgery. The president recovered briefly, but it was later discovered his lungs had been infected with bacteria which had spread from his intestine following the delayed diagnosis of his condition.
He was moved to another hospital in Slovakia, and Austrian doctors were flown in to treat him. Doctors induced a coma, and the head of state was flown to Austria for lifesaving surgery June 28.
An investigation into the case, which later saw Health Minister Tibor Šagát forced out of office, was immediately launched by PM Mikuláš Dzurinda. Schuster also called for an investigation but said he would grant a pardon to anyone found guilty.
But speaking October 29, Schuster said if the investigation showed that the doctor was negligent he could go back on his early promise. "I will decide according to the investigation's results," he said.
The charges come as troubles in the Slovak health sector mount. Many cash-strapped hospitals have seen food, gas and water supplies turned off because of unpaid bills.
5. Nov 2001 at 0:00 | Ed Holt