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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-11-01

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, November 1, 2002


  • [01] New rules: no surgery without written consent
  • [02] Almost half of Cypriots believe a solution is close
  • [03] Billboard vote postponed again
  • [04] Abattoir overhaul to introduce EU standards
  • [05] Doctor warns no quick fix for heroin addicts
  • [06] Lowering the bar for lawyers' exams?
  • [07] New tests to determine when Denktash can go home
  • [08] Record number of complaints to Ombudswoman
  • [09] Union anger as Turkish Cypriot authorities again bar joint meeting
  • [10] Publican arrested in contraband case

  • [01] New rules: no surgery without written consent

    By Alexia Saoulli

    ALL PRIVATE and public doctors will have to have written patient consent before undertaking surgery, the president of the Medical Association, Dr. Antonis Vassiliou, said yesterday. Failure to obtain this consent form will result in medical disciplinary action.

    "From now on, doctors will have to take time out to sit with their patients and to give them a full explanation of what a specific medical procedure involves and then ask them to sign a consent form," Vassiliou said.

    "In other words, patients will be told exactly who their surgeon is going to be and how the operation will be performed. If an anaesthesiologist is necessary, then the patient will be told who that person is going to be and what going under anaesthetic involves," Vassiliou told the Cyprus Mail.

    And patients would not longer be kept in the dark about what complications might ensue during a procedure, whether any side effects were likely and what those were, he added.

    "Only when a patient has been given a well rounded, informative briefing before entering the operating theatre and the doctor has obtained a signed consent form from that patient, will surgery be carried out."

    This new approach to surgery will become part of the medical association's code of ethics and, if broken, practitioners will face disciplinary action in the same way they would if they violated any other code of medical ethics, he said. In other words they would be charged before the Medical Disciplinary Board and possibly fined or suspended, depending on the board's decision.

    Vassiliou admitted there should have been such a consent form in the past, although there had been no specific complaints about the issue.

    "We did not have an official consent form up until now, but felt it was time to implement one," he said. "One of the Medical Association's aims is continuously to improve and better the medical care we offer patients in Cyprus. We felt this would be one such way, because patients deserve to have their doctor take some time out to sit with them and to answer all their queries before they are forced to have an operation or some other sort of medical intervention."

    Though there hadn't been any formal complaints, "a few gripes had come to my attention in the past. For instance patients would say: 'But my doctor didn't tell me that could happen, or I didn't know it was going to be like that.' So in order to avoid anything like that occurring again, we decided to modernise the system, so patients will be kept fully informed."

    If patients are under the age of 18, their parents or guardians will have to fill in the consent form after they have been given the routine briefing on the procedure, he said. In situations where the patient is over 18, but for some reason is unable to sign the form, his or her next of kin would be asked to, he said.

    The only case where a consent form could be waived was in a life or death situation, where immediate surgical intervention had to take place and no immediate family was available to authorise the procedure.

    "In emergency situations, such as a car accident or a possible hysterectomy due to internal bleeding during labour for instance, if there is no one available to sign a consent form, and it is a matter of life or death, it is the doctor's duty to save the patient's life," Vassiliou said.

    "We cannot let people die, consent or not," he stressed. "If a patient has a complaint in such an instance, he or she can take me to court and I will tell a judge that as a doctor I only did what was necessary to save him or her."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Almost half of Cypriots believe a solution is close

    FOURTY-eight per cent of Cypriots believe a solution to the Cyprus problem was closer while 43 per cent disagreed, a survey showed last night.

    The survey, which was presented by state-controlled televisions CyBC, said almost half of the sample of 1,200 people thought a settlement was closer now.

    Thirty-three per cent said the situation would remain as is while 20 per cent believe the island would be partitioned.

    Fifteen per cent said the solution would involve a confederation while the same percentage said the new system would be a federal one.

    Three per cent of the sample said they thought the island would be taken over by Turkey.

    The poll showed that 67 per cent of those questioned thought European accession course was helping in finding a solution for the Cyprus problem while 23 per cent said it made it more difficult.

    Seventy-six per cent said Cyprus would join the Union during the next enlargement while 18 per cent disagreed.

    The same optimism transpired concerning a potential military clash between Turkey and Cyprus with 63 per cent saying it would not happen while 35 per cent said it could.

    The survey also included questions concerning the Archbishop's successor with the Bishop of Kykkos Nikiforos receiving 39.9 per cent of the vote and Limassol Bishop Athanassios coming a distant second with 11.5 per cent of the vote.

    The survey was island-wide and included men and women aged 18 and above.

    It was carried out between September 12 and 24.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Billboard vote postponed again

    THE PLENUM yesterday postponed for the second time voting on a traffic safety bill, which includes provisions concerning the placement of advertising billboards on the roads.

    The bill, submitted by the government last November, has been the point of conflict between the government and advertising companies who have raked in millions by placing billboards on every available space on the island.

    The House Communications and Interior Committees were thought to have agreed on the majority of provisions included in the bill and although deputies said it would have been discussed last night, a further 15-day postponement was requested.

    The postponement was requested by United Democrats deputy Androulla Vasilliou because as she said not enough time had been given to study the final draft.

    Judging from the lack of objections to her request, it was obvious that all the parties welcomed a further postponement.

    The bill has sparked considerable controversy in recent days as reports emerged of considerable backstage horse-trading with the advertising companies.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Abattoir overhaul to introduce EU standards

    By Alexia Saoulli

    PLANS to cut down the number of slaughterhouses to four, as well as their upgrading in line with European Union requirements, will be discussed before the Cabinet next week.

    "At present there are 33 abattoirs around the island," Veterinary Services head Fidias Loucaides said yesterday. "However, these will be closed down and only four of them will be allowed to operate." These are in Kofinou, Paphos, Polis Chrysochous and Ayious Trimithias, he said.

    "Although nothing was wrong with our slaughterhouses as such, they lacked a number of EU requirements, which meant local meat could not be exported abroad," he said.

    "But Cypriot meat is completely healthy and safe for consumption," stressed Loucaides, adding that each type of animal was slaughtered in separate rooms. "The EU requirements are not simply a clear-cut set of improvements that can be explained in a single sentence. It's an 800-page document that we, as a government, have committed ourselves to implementing."

    According to yesterday's Politis, these improvements will include new machinery to slaughter animals, improved animal transport conditions to the slaughterhouses, trained drivers to take them there, separate unloading ramps for each type of animal, and healthy conditions prior to their slaughter so as to ensure their meat is in optimum condition.

    In order to ensure the four remaining slaughterhouses operate efficiently, the Veterinary Service has 55 vets and 200 employees who will be responsible for inspecting the facilities, said Loucaides. "At the moment, Paphos and Kofinou slaughterhouses do not operate under our service and have their own vets and inspectors. As of next week, however, this will change and they will also be run by us and overlooked by our experts."

    According to Interior Ministry official Costas Papamichael, the government has undertaken to foot the bill for this upgrading.

    "If we had tried to fulfil the EU requirements for all 33 slaughterhouses, the cost would have been insurmountable, running into millions of pounds," he said. That was why it had been decided to keep only four of the largest slaughterhouses in operation.

    The total cost of the upgrade was not yet certain, he added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Doctor warns no quick fix for heroin addicts

    By Alexia Saoulli

    HEROIN addicts seeking a quick-fix solution to their problems will be sorely disappointed, a leading specialist said yesterday.

    The director of the Centre for Education about Drugs and Treatment of Drug Addicted Persons (KENTHEA), Dr. Kyriakos Veresies, was speaking to the Cyprus Mail following the House Health Committee's demands for financial aid to send heroin addicts to Israel for treatment.

    "In the past two years, over 50 heroin addicts have gone to Israel to undergo biological detoxification in order to overcome their addiction," he said. "Although initially the addicts believe their problem has miraculously been cured, it has not."

    Veresies said the treatment in Israel involved hypnosis for a 24-hour period and cost around $8,000.

    "The method used in Israel is called the Weisman method," he said. "It's basically as simple as being put to sleep and waking up a changed person."

    But have these addicts really changed? Have they really overcome this potentially life-threatening problem? Veresies says no.

    "There are people that have been to Israel two or three times and are still users because all they accomplished while they were there was a biological detoxification. In other words, they no longer physically need the drug. However, this 'quick fix-it' programme does not deal with the root of the problem. Drug addicts need a lot of psychological support and must participate in self-help groups to help them stay away from heroin."

    He pointed out that overcoming an addiction as potent as heroin took up to 10 or 15 years and needed a lot of work on behalf of the patient.

    "The addicts must really struggle to get their life together. This is a fight for life, not just a matter of staying clean for a few days. There's a very big difference in being able to stay away from drugs because you don't physically need them and because you're psychologically dependent on them."

    Veresies added that a number of the 'cured' heroin addicts that had gone to Israel came back and started using cocaine instead.

    "They might not always go back to heroin, but they end up using another chemical that is equally addictive because they have not done the necessary work to get over their emotional need for using," he said.

    Veresies said the deputies at the yesterday's House Health Committee meeting had failed to recognise KENTHEA's work in fighting drug addiction. It too has started offering a detoxification programme through its Tolmi rehabilitation centre. "The difference is our programme does not involve the use of other medication," said Veresies.

    "We believe no one has died from not using heroine in Cyprus," he said. "Our programme means addicts can come to Tolmi for an eight-hour period, between 8am and 4pm, to spend a time with the other patients and to take part in numerous activities. It will be the starting point to ending their drug habit. After that they will be given support and therapy by specialists at Tolmi," he said.

    Director of Tolmi George Poyiadjis said physical withdrawal symptoms usually lasted from one week to one month. After that they had to fight their psychological dependence. "The idea behind the eight-hour period is to give addicts a chance to stay clean for a while, giving them a boost to continue with their efforts without using other chemical means."

    At the moment, 50 per cent of drug users between 15 and 19-years-old are heroine addicts and nearly 40 per cent of all drug users are addicted to the same substance, according to Tolmi's statistics. One hundred per cent of users taking up the habit under the age of 24 and five per cent choose heroine as their starting drug. At present 35 drug addicts are enrolled in the centre's outpatient programme.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Lowering the bar for lawyers' exams?

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    CONTROVERSY has tainted the last round of bar exams this October with accusations of the Legal Council lowering exam pass rates to give individual trainees the results needed to secure their positions in the profession.

    According to recent reports, a number of trainee lawyers who did not receive the necessary points for passing the bar were aided by the Legal Council, which allegedly lowered the pass rate threshold of certain exam topics.

    Former bar exam co-ordinator and examiner, lawyer Costas Tsirides, said yesterday he was not surprised by the current turn of events. "Having seen how things were moving last year, I resigned before things got into serious disarray," he said.

    Tsirides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the top brass of the Legal Council held the general opinion to keep bar examinations as they were, without making them any harder than necessary.

    "I personally worked to upgrade the level of the bar to parallel that of the English bar and save aspiring lawyers from travelling abroad for prestigious awards and diplomas," he said.

    Tsirides maintained that a senior education officer of the general council of the bar of England and Wales, Chris Maguire, and the Director of the Bachelor Vocational Course of the College of Law in London, Sarah Macdonald, had been brought to Cyprus last year to assess the legal system and to write up a report suggesting what changes need to be made in order to improve the Cypriot bar.

    "A year later, they are still discussing the results of the study. The main reason I resigned this February was because when push came to shove, they wanted to loosen the cords not tighten them," he said.

    Tsirides charges the Legal Society with attempting to influence examiners, mainly judges, to change the exams. When they refused, Tsirides alleged the Council decided to lower the pass mark to let every one qualify.

    "Initially, a trainee needed to pass 9 out of 12 subjects, amassing a total of 710 points. Eventually, they managed to reduce that to 7 out of 12 subjects with a total of 620 points. "My resignation was the direct result of action taken by the Legal Council. They make changes before each examination period, and after, depending on how many pass."

    Tsirides alleged that the threshold of 50 points for each subject had even been lowered in certain cases to 35 points. "We are bringing shame on our profession. Instead of implementing proposals of the Macdonald study, we are going backwards," he said.

    But chairman of the Cyprus Bar Association, Nicos Papaefstathiou, vehemently denied the accusations floating in the press. "This is pure ignorance. I wonder where such information could have come from?" he said. He maintained that no pass marks were lowered to facilitate the success rate of the bar exams and refused to make further comment.

    However, when asked if individual subject pass marks were altered from 50 to 35, he replied, "Only one lesson was reduced one time when there were many failures using legal procedures available to the Legal Council." Papaefstathiou did not wish to comment further on the level on reduction.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] New tests to determine when Denktash can go home

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will undergo medical tests today to determine when he will be fit to travel back to the island and resume his duties, reports said yesterday.

    According to Turkish Cypriot press reports, Denktash's return is expected as early as next week. Denktash has been recovering in New York following open-heart surgery at the beginning of last month.

    Denktash advisor Ergun Olgun said yesterday the Turkish Cypriot leader had already started being briefed on the latest Cyprus problem developments and had been given updates of recent Turkish and Greek Cypriot press reports. This weekend, Denktash will be meeting with UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto, who will be visiting him to wish him a speedy recovery, said Olgun.

    Referring to information that a Cyprus problem solution would be drawn up following Turkey's elections on Sunday, Olgun told the Cyprus News Agency: "the Cyprus problem can only be resolved by both sides (the Turkish Cypriot side and Greek Cypriot side) and not when it is imposed by third parties".

    UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan paid a social call on Denktash yesterday. Political issues were not discussed, since his doctors have forbidden him from working for a period of two months.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Record number of complaints to Ombudswoman

    OVER 1,300 complaints were filed with the Ombudswoman last year, according to the department's report, which was published yesterday.

    The number of complaints in 2001 reached 1,331, an increase of 4.56 per cent compared to the 1,273 submitted in 2000.

    This was the highest number of complaints recorded since the institution was established 10 years ago.

    Out of the 1,331 complaints, the Ombudswoman investigated 1,068 - 80.2 per cent -- while the rest did not fall within the department's jurisdiction.

    Most of the complaints concerned public health and citizens' rights while the rest included education issues and pupil-student relations, as well as complaints concerning land appropriations and land registry problems.

    "There are serious complaints, but for us this is very encouraging because they give the Ombudswoman the chance to make vital interventions on the state's administration," Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou said yesterday.

    Speaking after presenting her report to President Glafcos Clerides, Nicolaou said she would meet Clerides anew on Monday to brief him about the reassessment of the institution as well as future plans.

    Nicolaou said there was no reason for concern for the conclusions of her report, adding that the increase in complaints meant "we are on a good path".

    "Citizens' activism, their interest, their claims, to me are a healthy sign, not a concern," Nicolaou said.

    She said the aim of her department was to bring about corrective measures, something it had so far done with success.

    "Some of our suggestions have been made into laws," she said.

    Nicolaou cited the case of an abused foreigner, after which her office had suggested that in cases where detained people exhibited health problems after their release, the burden of proof that nothing had happened in custody should lie with the police.

    "It is with special satisfaction that we see that the bill prepared by the Attorney-general's office includes this provision," Nicolaou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Union anger as Turkish Cypriot authorities again bar joint meeting

    TRADE unionists yesterday demonstrated outside the Ledra Palace checkpoint after the Turkish Cypriot authorities refused to allow colleagues from the north to participate in the fourth Pancyprian Trade Union Forum, which was due to begin yesterday.

    It was the second "forced and involuntary" postponement of the Forum, which had initially been set for February this year, due to restrictions imposed by the Turkish Cypriot side, a joint statement from Greek and Turkish Cypriot trade unions said.

    The demonstration took place at 11 am yesterday.

    A resolution, approved by both sides' trade unions, was read at the gathering by PEO General-secretary Bambis Kiritsis, who said it was being read at a similar gathering on the other side of the checkpoint by protesting Turkish Cypriot unions.

    The resolution was then handed over to UNFICYP Chief of Mission Zbigniew Wlosowicz.

    The unions said that over the last three years they had faced continuous obstructions and prohibitions by the Turkish Cypriot authorities, primarily concerning freedom of movement and contacts across the Green Line. This had led to hindrance of meeting either in the north, south or UN-controlled Ledra Palace.

    Despite all local and international initiatives to overcome the stance of the Turkish Cypriot authorities, "no progress has been made in lifting all restrictions that would allow free, effortless and unimpeded movement of its members that would facilitate the meeting of the fourth Pancyprian Trade Union Forum and its Committees and sub-committees".

    SEK General-secretary Demetris Kittenis said the next Forum would be held in the near future, but that this time it would take place abroad - possibly in Budapest, in Hungary - with the technical assistance of the Confederation of European Trade Unions.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Publican arrested in contraband case

    A 47-YEAR-OLD Limassol pub owner was yesterday arrested in connection with the illegal possession of thousands of pounds worth of tax-free cigarettes and alcohol.

    Police said they seized 197 bottles whisky, one bottle of vodka, and 150 cartons of cigarettes as well as 945 in cash thought to have been the product of contraband sales.

    The suspect had been placed under surveillance after police received information he had been dealing in tax-free cigarettes and alcohol.

    At around 12.15pm yesterday police, together with customs officers, intercepted the 47-year-old's car and allegedly found 68 bottles of whisky and 48 cartons of cigarettes.

    Authorities then searched the suspect's pub and a warehouse he kept and allegedly found a total of 129 bottles of whisky, one bottle of vodka, and 102 cartons of cigarettes.

    Reports said the suspect alleged he bought the contraband from a Sri Lankan man whom police were seeking last night.

    Authorities were focusing their investigation on the origin of the goods and locating any collaborators.

    The suspect is expected to be brought before court today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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