On Wednesday the BBC ran a story about a Ghanaian woman, Ama Sumani, who needs weekly kidney dialysis as a result of multiple myeloma and has just been deported to her home country. She needs a bone marrow transplant. She is an illegal immigrant, albeit not of the most serious kind. She is not a health tourist, she became ill in the UK. Yes, she did abuse her Student Visa. Having applied for a banking course but not being able to pursue it because of language difficulties, she started working (so not requiring state support). Due to her language difficulties, it is quite possible that she didn´t understand the immigration rules.
Although the dialysis was seemingly given on the NHS, the rules say she cannot be given a bone marrow transplant on the NHS. This is both ridiculous, inhumane and uncharitable given that bone marrow donors come from all across the world (and Ghana has just set up the first tropical African bone marrow register and is seeking international certification) and that the procedure itself is relatively inexpensive and simple.
According to Ghana's High Commission in the UK the country has two hospitals that can offer dialysis, and, as we know, one hospital attempting to set up bone marrow transplants.
If she has paid Ghanaian social security, yes, the treatment will be free. But in Africa unless you are paid by the small formal sector (whether state or private), this is exceedingly rare. She has little choice, I suspect, but to go private which whether for dialysis or a bone marrow transplant is very likely to be beyond her means.
Please support the DWIB Leukaemia Fund.
January 15 Lancet editorial here.