Lancet slams decision to deport Ghanaian cancer patient

( AFP ) - Medical journal The Lancet sharply criticised a decision by immigration authorities to deport a Ghanaian woman suffering from terminal cancer in an editorial published Tuesday.

Describing Ama Sumani's removal from a hospital as "atrocious barbarism", the respected publication called on doctors' leaders to do more to voice opposition to the move.

The Lancet also published a petition that has so far been signed by 276 doctors calling on the government to reject proposed regulations that would abolish the right of failed asylum seekers to seek medical help in Britain through the state-run National Health Service (NHS).

Sumani, who has myeloma, a cancer affecting the bone marrow, came to Britain to study five years ago, but began working in contravention of her visa regulations. Her visa has since expired.

Her lawyers had pleaded for her to remain in the country on compassionate grounds, as she said she could not afford treatment in Ghana.

"The UK has committed an atrocious barbarism," read The Lancet's editorial, which was published online and is set to appear in its next print edition.

"It is time for doctors' leaders to say so -- forcefully and uncompromisingly."

The journal added that to "stop treating patients in the knowledge that they are being sent home to die is an unacceptable breach of the duties of any health professional."

Concern over Sumani's fate in Ghana prompted a friend in Cardiff to set up a fund -- the Friends of Ama committee -- for donations to help pay for her medical expenses in Ghana, according to the BBC.

The broadcaster said that Sumani had been receiving dialysis while in Britain because of damage done to her kidneys.

She told the BBC that upon her arrival in Ghana, she visited a hospital which said it would cost 6,000 dollars (4,000 euros) to continue her dialysis treatment for three months, along with additional costs for treatment of her condition, an amount she could not afford.

In the petition, also published on The Lancet's website and due to appear in the upcoming print edition, 276 doctors said a proposal being considered by the government to refuse NHS treatment to failed asylum seekers was "dangerous and unethical."

"It is not in keeping with the ethics of our profession to refuse to see any person who may be ill, particularly pregnant women with complications, sick children or men crippled by torture," the petition read.

"We call on the government to retreat from this foolish proposal."

The doctors said that if the regulations were put into effect, they would defy them and continue to treat asylum seekers.

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