Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Strange Case of Dr. Wicke Revisited

I am afraid that I missed this article from The Telegraph, titled "I received death threats, says doctor who denied that Ukrainian leader was poisoned", when it first came out a couple of weeks ago. I think long-time readers of Trans-Int will forgive me, however, since I discussed the matter extensively based on reports in the German-language press already in the second week of December - at a time when the quasi-totality of the traditional English-language media was dutifully hewing to the line that the Ukrainian leader in question, namely then presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, had been poisoned with dioxin.

The doctor is Dr. Lothar Wicke, the former medical director of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna. Viktor Yushchenko visited the Rudolfinerhaus three times between September 2004, when he first developed the dermatological symptoms that would make his disfigured face internationally famous, and December 11, when Dr. Wicke's former colleague at the Rudolfinerhaus, Dr. Michael Zimpfer, announced that the long-rumored (and, for Mr Yushchenko, politically opportune) diagnosis of poisoning had been confirmed and the guilty substance - dioxin - identified.

Dr. Wicke has always denied that there was any scientific basis for the poisoning diagnosis and he continues to do so. He reveals in the Telegraph piece that he did not resign from the clinic on December 9 - one day before Mr. Yushchenko was set to return to the Rudolfinerhaus - as has been previously reported (including on Trans-Int), but was in fact dismissed. He is currently suing the clinic in connection with the dismissal.

According to the Telegraph article,

Dr Wicke remains uncomfortable about the role played by the Rudolfinerhaus in the drama [of the Ukrainian presidential elections - JR]. "The first two times Mr Yushchenko was examined, there was no evidence of poisoning whatsoever," Dr Wicke, 64, said. Yet, to his dismay, persistent leaks from the clinic suggested that the politician had indeed been poisoned.

Dr Wicke said: "I was directly involved, and I can tell you that the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Vienna did not find any traces of poisonous agents in his blood. If there is no poison, there cannot be poisoning and there was no trace of it whatsoever."

Kudos to the Telegraph for catching up on the story. Perhaps someone there reads Trans-Int?

For my original post from December, see "The Strange Case of Dr. Wicke". Those who were not readers of Trans-Int at the time might also be interested in the question "How did the Blogosphere Get Fooled on Ukraine?".