There is an old doctor joke.
A patient is sitting in his doctor's office and the physician reviews the medical facts, and states, "Mr. Howard, I'm sorry to tell you that you've got cancer. You have only six months to live."
The patient pauses, then says "Doc, that's terrible news. I don't have a job now, and I was hoping to get back to work after the surgery. I don't know if I'll be able to pay off what I owe you by then."
Whereupon the doctor gives Mr. Howard six more months.
When it comes to the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the only man convicted for the attack it seems truth is stranger than fiction.
LONDON – The regrets of a cancer expert who assessed the only man ever convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie jetliner bombing have intensified the anger felt by victims' relatives over Scotland's decision to release the Libyan on compassionate grounds.
Professor Karol Sikora and other experts had said Abdel Baset al-Megrahi probably had only three months to live when he was freed from a Scottish jail last August and allowed to return home to Libya. But one year later, Al-Megrahi, who is being treated for prostate cancer, is still alive.
Sikora, one of three experts who assessed al-Megrahi's health for Libyan authorities, was quoted by Britain's Observer newspaper Sunday as saying he should have been more cautious about the chances of survival.
"If I could go back in time, I would have probably been more vague and tried to emphasize the statistical chances and not hard fact," Sikora was quoted as saying.
"In medicine we say 'Never say never and never say always,' because funny things happen. All you can do is give a statistical opinion," said Sikora, dean of the School of Medicine at Buckingham University, in central England.
Prostate cancer can be fatal, but it's very common for a patient to die with prostate cancer rather than from it. For a prisoner who participated in the mass slaughter of 270 innocent people, the entire system should have been extremely cautious in predicting al-Megrahi's demise from it.
A report made public by Scottish authorities shows the Scottish Prison Service's medical chief, Andrew Fraser, was advised by four specialists at the time of al-Megrahi's release. The report described the three-month prognosis for al-Megrahi as "reasonable," but confirmed that none of those consulted ruled out that al-Megrahi might live longer.
Precisely why he should still be in prison in Scotland. It was, however, sold to the public on the currency of that three month prognosis.
Sikora told the Observer he remains certain al-Megrahi will die of cancer, "I suspect in the next few weeks. To tell the truth, I'll be quite glad because we can move on."
Some people never learn from their mistakes.