Cutting through the bullshit.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Hippocrates wept

In the last few weeks, a spate of reports has emerged about Shin Bet’s refusal to admit Palestinian patients from Gaza to enter Israel for treatment of their life threatening conditions. Dr. Danny Filk, chairman of Physicians for Human Rights, wrote on Ynet last week,

The 47-year-old Palestinian known as H. apparently suffers from a liver tumor and urgently needs to undergo a biopsy that would enable treatment. Meanwhile, C. is a Palestinian who requires urgent surgery, A. is a 20-year-old Palestinian woman who suffers from cancer and needs to urgently visit a hospital, 16-year-old girl T. suffers from a heart defect and urgently requires catheterization or surgery, 20-year-old L. has cancer and needs radiation and chemotherapy, and 27-year-old A. has a brain tumor and requires urgent treatment.

All these cases were examined by senior Israeli oncologists and cardiologists who ruled that treatment is urgently needed and postponing it endangers the lives of the patients. The State of Israel rejected the requests, arguing that the six are prevented from entering Israel for security reasons. However, after repeated inquires by the Physicians for Human Rights organization, the interference of Knesset members, and petitions by human right groups abroad, the six patients were granted a permit to leave the Strip.

You never know what desperate acts a dying person may carry out, so you can’t be too careful. That’s why a permit to leave the strip isn’t good enough. As Amira Hass writes, for example,

Mahmoud Abu Taha was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine in August 2007. Treatment in Gaza was unsuccessful, and he lost a third of his body weight.

The Shin Bet is refusing to allow a 21-year-old Rafiah man who is sick with cancer and in need of immediate medical care to come to Israel, even though he obtained permission from the Israeli Defense Forces' Coordination and Liaison Administration.

The Shin Bet also arrested the patient's father, who accompanied him to the hospital.

Not content to deprive Gazans of treatment in Israel, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports, the occupation authorities are now detaining doctors, as well.

…on Tuesday, 6 November 2007, IOF detained Dr. Nabih Abu Sha’ban (52), a neurosurgeon from Gaza City, at Erez checkpoint. Abu Sha’ban was accompanying his son, suffering from kidney problems, to Jordan for medical treatment. Abu Sha’ban was detained despite having permission from IOF to pass through. Medical reports indicate that Dr. Abu Sha’ban is suffering from several illnesses. He previously underwent heart surgery. In addition, he suffers from diabetes and high-blood pressure that require medication on a regular basis.

The Center’s lawyer visited Dr. Abu Sha’ban in El-Majdal prison on Monday, 12 November 2007. He informed the lawyer that he is being questioned about patients he treated in Gaza!

While Israel’s High Court of Justice waits for prosecutors ‘to look into the matter further’, writes Yuval Azoulay in today’s Ha’aretz,

Nail al-Kurdi, a 20-year-old Gaza resident, died over the weekend from cancer while awaiting approval to enter Israel for medical treatment.

Despite numerous requests by Physicians for Human Rights, the Shin Bet security service denied his entrance due to security reasons.

The rights group said Sunday that they have been submitting requests to allow his entrance into Israel since July, but each appeal was rejected. In light of the state's refusal, the group petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to bring al-Kurdi in for treatment.

"The court decided to give the state time to examine its policy on the matter, despite the numerous medical opinions presented to them which warned that if al-Kurdi would not receive medical treatment immediately, he would die," a statement by the organization said.

But what of those fortunate enough not only to secure a permit, but actually to enter the Jewish state for treatment? Esti Aharonovitz, writing in Friday’s Ha’aretz, reports,

This week, [the deputy head of the orthopedic oncology department at Ichilov Hospital, Dr. Yehuda] Kollender recalled: "A little girl came to me with an advanced and neglected tumor, and when her father told me that the girl was getting radiation at Assuta, my hair stood on end. Every expert in oncology, actually every specialist in oncology or orthopedics, knows that the standard treatment all over the world for such a case is chemotherapy, followed by limb-preserving surgery, and then another round of chemotherapy…”

In January 2005, Farah [Harma], then 10 years old, was diagnosed with bone cancer. The tumor was discovered in her right knee after a biopsy at Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus. From there she was referred to Al-Watani Hospital in Nablus, and from there to Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv for radiation treatment.

Prof. Natalio Walach, an oncologist who heads the chemotherapy unit at Assaf Harofeh Hospital and also served as director of radiotherapy at Assuta, sent Farah for radiation treatment without examining any medical information and without conducting any further examination to determine the exact type of the girl's cancer…during the brief meeting with the doctor, Farah and her escort were not asked a single question and did not receive any explanation about the method of treatment. There was no physical examination. This week, Walach said: "I don't remember the case that well."

[Michael] Sfard, the attorney for Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights, says…"… It seems that at Assuta there's a separate medical channel for Palestinians, and they are given inferior care. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Someone's making money from this. And we're talking about cancer-stricken children here."

"As far as is known," says Sfard, "the standard method of radiation treatment is with a linear accelerator. As a matter of fact, Assuta Hospital is the only medical institution that still administers radiation with a Cobalt 60, and it does not do so to Israelis. The only use made of this machine at Assuta is for the treatments the hospital gives Palestinians as part of the agreement with the PA."

…Assuta's medical director, Dr. Orna Ophir…admitted that the Cobalt 60 machine did not meet the accepted standard in Israel and that the use made of it at Assuta was solely to meet the needs of the Palestinian Authority.

Ophir further confirmed that ‘Assuta had found a way to make money from a service it couldn't sell to Israelis’, concluding, "Farah's parents had given up on her before they came to us. They have fourth-rate doctors, and they want me to give them first-rate treatment."

Azam Abu-Qabatya, from Yata near Hebron, also lost his daughter to Prof Walach’s special treatment.

…even though the referral from Al-Husseini Hospital proposed three further tests to diagnose the exact form of cancer, Walach did not perform any further examinations…As in the case of Farah Harma, he looked at her leg and drew with a marker to designate the area meant to receive radiation.

…Further examination found that the cancer had spread into the girl's abdominal cavity and lungs...Hayah Abu-Qabatya died at home in the village of Yata, on Thursday, October 13, 2005. She was just 12 years old.

[Hat tip to Mark Marshall and Dorothy Naor.]

2 comments:

  1. Meanwhile, "peace envoy" Tony Blair is aiming for... a jobs program.

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