Treating Anas al-Liby's hepatitis could gouge U.S. taxpayers

Meanwhile, more details are beginning to emerge about the seriousness of al-Liby’s medical condition. Last week, al-Liby’s family disclosed that he suffered from a Hepatitis C infection, contracted while he was imprisoned in Iran. But it now appears his health is more precarious than previously reported, with the virus far advanced—causing, among other complications, cirrhosis of the liver and an enlarged spleen. According to his family, the liver problems have been causing blackouts, and his immune system is highly fragile.

With terror trials tending to be prolonged—the case against Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh took nearly two years—the cost of al-Liby’s s medical treatment to U.S. taxpayers is likely to be high. If treated early enough, 50 to 80 percent of people who contract Hepatitis C are cured. But it is also known as the” silent killer”—10,000 Americans a year die from complications caused by Hepatitis C. Those with advanced Hepatitis C infections can require liver transplants and chemotherapy to reduce the swelling of their spleens; a high proportion of those with an advanced infection go on to develop liver cancer.

“His chances of making it to the conclusion of a long terror trial are very thin, unless he has a liver transplant,’ says Dr. James Le Fanu, a British physician and medical author. “Of course prognosis isn’t an exact science but judging from the symptoms you are describing he is close to the end-stages of liver failure, and depending how advanced the infection is he may have just weeks or months to live without a transplant.”