Gaza resident dies awaiting permission for cancer treatment

Editor’s note: The following correction was issued by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) on 3 May 2005: “Due to mistaken information received at PHR-Israel, we announced on [1 May] that the cancer patient Mohammad al-Hurani had died of his brain tumor. An investigation we held yesterday revealed that the patient is alive and still waiting for urgent care in Israel.”

Mohammed al-Hurani, a 33-year-old resident of Gaza, died 30 April 2008 of cancer while waiting for a reply from the Israel General Security Service (GSS) to a request from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel).

Al-Hurani was diagnosed in February 2008 as suffering from a malign tumor in the brain. His condition caused severe disturbance of vision. In the past two weeks his condition deteriorated significantly and he began to suffer from uncontrollable fits and seizures in all parts of the body. PHR-Israel contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office on 7 April 2008 regarding al-Hurani’s condition, attaching a medical opinion from Dr. Alsalam Aghbariya, an oncology specialist at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Dr. Aghbariya stated categorically that al-Hurani would die within a matter of days or weeks if he did not receive treatment.

Although al-Hurani was in a grave condition, confined to a bed in hospital, the GSS demanded that the patient come for security questioning at Erez Crossing on 27 April. However, the Israeli army cancelled the appointment at the last moment and postponed the questioning until 5 May 2008. As noted, the patient died 30 April at Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

Al-Hurani’s death is the first among a group of 13 cancer patients who were prevented by the GSS in April from entering Israel for life-saving treatment. The GSS is maintaining its damaging policy toward patients in the Gaza Strip, and cancer patients in particular. As of the time of writing, none of the 13 patients has been allowed to enter Israel for treatment. To date, the GSS has given negative replies in eight cases on the list forwarded to the GSS by PHR-Israel; these patients are thus left in the Gaza Strip without treatment. The GSS continues to procrastinate in issuing its replies, and PHR-Israel is still waiting for a reply in three additional cases.

PHR-Israel protests forcefully the slow and cumbersome conduct of the Israeli authorities in processing its requests regarding cancer patients. The GSS’s conduct grossly ignores physicians’ recommendations regarding the urgency and severity of the cases involved, and shows disregard for the serious state of health of the patients.

PHR-Israel notes its grave concern for the fate of the remaining patients, demands immediate change to the GSS’s injurious policy toward patients and warns that the continuation of this policy is liable to lead to further victims.

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