(JULY 1, 2015) – As biographer to Dr. Arthur Porter, I can confirm that the Canadian Privy Council Member has died on Canada Day at a cancer hospital in Panama, according to his physician and long-time friend Dr. Karol Sikora.
Dr. Sikora informed me early this morning that he died of metastatic cancer of the lung, with bone and liver involvement, around midnight on July 1, 2015 at the Panama National Cancer Centre. Dr. Roberto Lopez, the Director of the Panamanian Cancer Institute, called him at his home in England.
Dr. Porter’s death brings to an end a cancer battle stretching back to December 2012, when Dr. Porter, a well-known oncologist, diagnosed himself from his clinic in Nassau, Bahamas.
On March 31, 2013, Dr. Porter was remanded to La Joya Prison in Panama City, a place notorious for human rights violations and inhumane conditions. His imprisonment was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged fraud related to the construction of Montreal’s $1.3 billion McGill University Health Centre, where he served as Director General and CEO.
It has been called the largest corruption fraud investigation in Canadian history.
During this time, in a highly publicized standoff with Canadian authorities for his extradition, Dr. Porter was forced to smuggle chemotherapy drugs into the prison to keep him alive. He wrote letters to the Canadian Embassy in Panama requesting urgent medical treatment.
It was not until recently, more than two years later, that Dr. Porter was granted access to cancer treatment.
“Arthur Porter died at 12 midnight EST in Panama City National Cancer Centre,” Dr. Sikora said in a statement. “He had been out of prison for six weeks but under armed guard in first of all the main general hospital and the last four weeks in the National Cancer Center.”
Dr. Sikora said that Dr. Porter was on high doses of morphine for the pain and continued chemotherapy.
While family was present in the country, he died suddenly and alone.
“It was fairly sudden and unexpected that he died today. We thought he would live another two or three weeks. But that was not the case,” he added.
Born in Sierra Leone, the Cambridge educated oncologist’s life spanned many disciplines and at times seemed beyond belief, stretching across continents and into the fields of medicine, business and politics. While serving as President and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, the largest employer in Michigan, he was asked by then President George W Bush to be the Surgeon General of the United States. He declined.
He went on to become the President and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre, and successfully oversaw the construction of Montreal’s long sought-after mega hospital. On September 3, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Dr. Porter Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee of Canada, the spy watchdog of Canada. He was also made a Privy Councillor.
Known as charismatic, intelligent and ambitious, Dr. Porter served on dozens of committees, published hundreds of scholarly works and received numerous other political appointments in Canada, Sierra Leone, The Bahamas and the United States.
Dr. Porter is survived by his wife, Pamela Porter, and his four daughters Gemma, Adina, Fiona and Charlotte. He was only 59.