GREECE: Former Education Secretary fights for life

For the last two months, former Greek Education Secretary Marietta Giannakou has been seriously ill in hospital where, following a series of delicate operations, surgeons were forced to amputate part of her right leg. Although her health is improving, the doctors are cautious as to whether Giannakou has entirely escaped danger.

Giannakou, a diabetic, was rushed to hospital following severe pains in her right leg where she had suffered a fracture after a fall last year. During the operation to remove a blood clot, doctors decided it was necessary to amputate the right leg in order to avoid septicemia. They also subjected the former Education Secretary to successive angioplastic operations, a rare medical practice to improve the flow of blood to vital organs.

Because of the diabetes, and kidney and heart inadequacies, complications set in and the remaining portion of the right leg did not heal. Giannakou again underwent surgery and a further part of her leg was removed.

"The possibility of thrombosis in less than a month after an angioplastic operation is a very rare occurrence," one of her doctors said. "But it is consistent with patients who suffer from diabetes, kidney and heart inadequacies, as in the case of Mrs Giannakou."

Throughout this period, she remained in intensive care and was treated by an array of eminent cardiologists and orthopaedic surgeons. Giannakou, herself an eminent doctor and neuro-psychologist, was Education Secretary from 2004 to September last year.

When in parliament, Giannakou was chair of a cross-party parliamentary committee on drug problems, national coordinator and member of the European Council's working group on drugs and vice-chair of the European Christian Party, as well as numerous other committees.

A distinguished academic, she has also written and published articles on a range of social policies such as organised crime, drug abuse and the role and position of women in contemporary society, not only from a narrow Greek national point of view but also from a European and international perspective.

She was at the centre of a fierce conflict with academics and students when she attempted to reform article 16 of the Greek constitution to allow private universities to operate. During relentless demonstrations, marches and constant social unrest, her legislation was voted in parliament but in effect was rendered inoperative and, in last September's general election, she failed to be re-elected and was replaced by Evripidis Stylianidis.

A leading light of the conservative New Democracy Party, established by the current Prime Minister's uncle and namesake Konstantinos Karamanlis, Stylianidis has been a member of the Greek Parliament, a member of the European Parliament and head of the New Democracy Party delegation, and a former Minister of Health.