January 31, 2013
The high-profile trial of prominent heart surgeon Mirosław G., charged with accepting bribes, has triggered a row after the judge unexpectedly criticized the “Stalinist” methods of the investigators in the case.
Judge Igor Tuleya’s words also prompted a public debate on whether he had been right to speak out on the wider ramifications of the case, veering into party-political territory. While announcing the verdict, Tuleya criticized the manner in which the investigation against Mirosław G. had been conducted.
Describing the methods used by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) and the prosecutors in the case, the judge said that witnesses had been questioned and their homes had been raided in the middle of the night. They were warned they may face charges of bribery themselves if they failed to offer evidence satisfactory to the investigators. Such practices are unacceptable in a state based on the rule of law, Tuleya said.
“The night-time questioning and the detentions—the tactics used by the law enforcement services in doctor Mirosław G.’s case—can be regarded as horrifying (…) and bring up associations (...) with methods used in the darkest days of Stalinism in the 1940s and 1950s,” Tuleya said.
His words provoked an immediate response from the former heads of the CBA, who called Tuleya’s statement a “scandal” and demanded that disciplinary measures be taken against the judge.
The case stirred up controversy and left the public and politicians divided.
The trial of Mirosław G., which started in November 2008, also prompted a debate on the fine line between a bribe and a patient handing a doctor a gift to express gratitude after a successful course of treatment.
Finally, the court decided that accepting money from patients, even small sums, is not the same as, for example, accepting flowers or a small souvenir, which could be regarded as an act of gratitude.
Mirosław G. was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay a fine of zl.72,000 for accepting over zl.17,500 from patients.
Mirosław G., the former head of the Cardiac Surgery Department at a major Warsaw hospital run by the Interior Ministry, was once regarded as one of the best cardiac surgeons in Poland. He was apprehended by CBA agents in February 2007. The justice minister at the time, Zbigniew Ziobro, said of him: “This man will never take anyone’s life again.” This was an allusion to the surgeon being charged with committing manslaughter by leaving a gauze pad in the heart of a patient undergoing surgery. The manslaughter case is still in court.
Ziobro, who was forced to apologize for his statement in 2010 after Mirosław G. won a lawsuit against him.
MirosławG. has also brought a lawsuit against the then CBA chiefs for using the codename Mengele in the case—alluding to the infamous Nazi doctor and war criminal who performed numerous medical experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp. This last lawsuit is still in court.
MirosławG. has also won lawsuits against the tabloids Fakt and Super Express, which claimed that he killed patients in a government hospital and called him “Doctor Death.”
The verdict by Judge Tuleya is still subject to appeal, so the case of Doctor G. is bound to continue to stir up controversy and divide commentators and the public.