Cuban, US doctors at odds over jailed American's health
Published November 27, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Cuban government said Wednesday that a test shows an
American imprisoned in Cuba doesn't have cancer, countering a previous
statement by a US doctor that a mass on his shoulder should be assumed
to be cancerous unless proven harmless.
Both sides have spent the past several months going back and forth about
the health of Alan Gross, who has been in prison in Cuba for nearly
three years. Gross, 63, has had a mass on his shoulder since May.
Overweight when he was arrested, he has also lost more than 100 pounds
since being in prison. Gross' lawyer and family want to be able to
choose a doctor to examine him. The Cuban government has said his health
Cuban officials said in a statement Wednesday that Cuban and American
officials met Monday to discuss Gross' health. During the meeting
officials discussed in part an Oct. 24 biopsy that confirmed that a lump
on Gross' right shoulder is not cancerous, the one-page statement from
Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The statement said the test
"could not be performed before due to Mr. Gross' refusal" and that
Gross' wife, a resident of the District of Columbia, was given the test
results during a meeting in Washington on Monday.
The Cuban medical team treating Gross said "the general health condition
of Mr. Gross is normal" though he is being treated for "chronic
illnesses that are typical of his age."
A radiologist from Maryland who reviewed tests performed on Gross in
Cuba before the biopsy had said they were inadequate and suggested both
an MRI and possibly a biopsy. On Wednesday the same doctor, Alan A.
Cohen, concluded in a letter released to reporters that the results of
the biopsy were "hopeful but not definitive." He repeated his suggestion
of an MRI and suggested a biopsy using a larger needle.
One of Gross' U.S. lawyers, Jared Genser, also questioned the results of
the biopsy and repeated requests that Gross be allowed to choose a
doctor to examine him. Genser questioned the public release of medical
records without Gross' consent.
Gross has been in prison in Cuba since late 2009. He was working as a
U.S. government subcontractor when he was arrested, and his case has
become a source of tension in U.S.-Cuba relations.
A New York rabbi who saw Gross on Tuesday also said the growth was not
cancerous. Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is a doctor, told The Associated Press
in an interview that he had examined Gross and received a lengthy
briefing on his health. Gross' lawyer said the value of Abadie's
assessment is limited because he is a gastroenterologist. But, he said,
if the Cuban government is now allowing American doctors to examine
Gross they will have an oncologist apply for a visa to see him.
"We urge the Cuban government to allow this to happen promptly so we can
put questions about Mr. Gross's health to rest," Genser said in a statement.
Next week will mark three years since Gross was arrested.