Living with intimidation


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Category: Health Care 25 Nov 07

When the woman disclosed how her cousin died, after being misdiagnosed by doctors at two private medical institutions and then said there was nothing the family could do about it, I thought how accustomed we have become to living with intimidation, of hiding behind fear, to censoring ourselves.

They are afraid of victimisation if they ask for compensation, because they may need medical help again, because they are poor, powerless and grieving.

They are afraid because they know that the legal system is on the side of the moneyed, created to impoverish victims, rarely brings justice on time, often never.

This is one woman’s story, but it echoes stories throughout our lawless land, where money and position buy transparency in every profession on every step of the ladder.

“About three months ago, my cousin, a 40-year-old healthy, working man with five children between the ages of ten and 21, got a fever, cough, a cold. It gradually became worse.

“He started to see doctors, starting with a GP then on to specialists including an ENT and a lung specialist.

“Six weeks ago, he went to a private medical institution, where they did every possible test—from blood tests to an MRI. He was diagnosed with lung failure.

“They got a second opinion from specialists from another private institution, which confirmed this diagnosis.

“Due to the reputation of the public health care system, they went out of their way and spent all their savings, with up to $40,000 on tests alone in private institutions.

“He was poor, divorced, and lived with his elderly mother, who didn’t want any regrets that she could have done more for her dying son.

“They were told nothing could be done; that it was just a matter of time.

Secret police

“His family took him home so he could die. They bought oxygen tanks, ventilation, a hospital bed and a wheelchair. Imagine the trauma on the family, the children, the elderly mother.

“A collapsed lung is rare. As my cousin’s condition deteriorated, from moving around with a ventilator to being unable to breathe, he started to feel he was paying for his bad deeds, that he deserved this death.

“During his last trip to the medical institution, where he left in two hours (for which he was charged $2,800) his brother deposited $7,800.

“The receipt was made out in the dying man’s name. Now that he’s dead, the medical institution refuses to return the $5,000 they owe the family. It is fraudulent, but we can’t do anything about it.

“Finally, he was admitted to Mt Hope, where a team of doctors discovered that he was dying from TB, a curable disease. By this time it was too late. His organs were irretrievably damaged.

“Now, every person who came into contact with him— dozens of us—have to be tested for TB.

“The funeral was traumatic, knowing his life could have been saved. The family didn’t want an autopsy, because they don’t believe justice will be done.

“They don’t have insurance. They don’t equate loss of money with life. They were trying to save this man and were left with nothing.”

Lawlessness is not on our streets alone. Power stalks us everywhere, backing us all against a wall, making us impotent, forcing us to censor ourselves.

We are now our own secret police. The battle for justice and democracy is lost daily.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur