The Death of Asil
Dr. Dudy Tzfati
With a heavy heart I write about Asil, a six year old girl from the Palestinian village of Wadi Fuqeen, near Bethlehem. Asil was sick with tuberculosis, which got complicated and reached the brain. She was referred to the Israeli Hadassah Hospital and her parents managed to get the needed financial coverage for day treatments from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Two weeks ago she arrived to the hospital and underwent several tests. A CT scan was needed, but since it was not included in the coverage, Asil was released home without it.
Asil’s parents tried to get additional financial coverage for the CT scan and for full hospitalization, which was needed, but their efforts were in vain. The Palestinian Ministry of Health refused. Helplessly, they tried to get an urgent appointment for a CT scan in a Palestinian hospital, but the waiting line was too long.
A few days later, on a Friday, Asil’s condition deteriorated. She needed urgent hospitalization and treatment of her escalating brain infection. But since she did not have the coverage for hospitalization at Hadassah, she was taken to a hospital in Bethlehem, where they didn’t have the necessary medicine and expertise to treat her. Her parents continued to beg for approval of the financial coverage to send her back to Hadassah, with no success. By Sunday morning her situation worsened.
She still had the coverage for day treatments in Hadassah so the doctors wanted to send her there in an ambulance. However, when they called Hadassah, the Hospital management told them not to come, knowing that emergency room and full hospitalization would be required. Asil’s parents and the Israeli doctor caring for her in Hadassah begged the manager, with no success. Without upfront financial coverage, Asil was left in Bethlehem and started to take the medication advised by the Hadassah doctor. But this was too late and too little. On Sunday night Asil passed away.
How can we accept such an unbearable situation and denial of life-saving treatment, which was available by a 15 minute drive from Asil’s home? And Asil is not the only one. In Hadassah Pediatric Hemato-oncology department alone, the financial coverage for 57 kids was cut in the midst of their treatment – a death sentence for many of them. A physician friend is spending his time and own money to buy expensive medicine for the children he saved by performing bone marrow transplants, because their parents cannot cover the post- transplant expenses. Otherwise they would be lost.
Who knows how many more patients are dying because they have no access to life-saving treatments available in Israeli, but not in Palestinian, hospitals. Apparently, the Palestinian Authority recently decided to cut the financial coverage for transferring Palestinians for medical care in Israel, while the Palestinian Authority’s tax money continues to be illegally held by Israel.
The Israeli hospitals refuse to treat patients without financial coverage, and the Israeli government denies its responsibility for the Palestinians living under its control. Meanwhile, innocent children pay with their lives.
What can be done? Is there not enough suffering around? Can we demand from the Palestinian Authority to leave the children and sick out of the struggle? Can we demand from the Israeli government to assume responsibility for the Palestinians under its control? Or maybe we can all raise donations for this purpose?
Dr. Dudy Tzfati teaches Genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
February 22, 2009
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