Last week, UK immigration officials removed a terminally ill Ghanaian woman from a hospital in Wales and escorted her back to Ghana, where she is unable to afford the treatment she needs to prolong her life.
39-year-old Ama Sumani came to the UK 5 years ago and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January, 2006. Until last week, she had been receiving dialysis at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Sumani was in the UK on a student visa but was unable to enrol on the banking course she wanted to take because of her lack of English. She started working. Although her visa had expired by the time she was taken ill and she had contravened its conditions by seeking employment, her solicitor made representations for her to stay in the UK on compassionate grounds because she could not afford life-saving treatment in Ghana. But the Home Office rejected her appeals. As soon as her doctors deemed her fit to travel, immigration officials removed her from the country. According to news reports, Sumani, now in Ghana, has been refused treatment at the main hospital in Accra because she has no source of funding.
Sumani's case has shocked many people in the UK. Her solicitor has been inundated with calls from members of the UK public offering money and even their bone marrow for a transplant. Ghana's High Commissioner in London has appealed to Britain to reverse its decision.
What about doctors' leaders? Have they expressed their outrage? Have they called for compassionate treatment of Sumani? Unfortunately not. There has been a disappointing and deafening silence about the case from those who are supposed to represent doctors' voices in the UK. Sumani is not the only migrant who has fallen seriously ill in the UK, begun treatment, and then been removed or deported to a country where treatment is unaffordable or inaccessible. Individual doctors who work with these patient groups have been campaigning on their behalf (see Online/Correspondence). 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. The UK has committed an atrocious barbarism. It is time for doctors' leaders to say so-forcefully and uncompromisingly. ( Lancet )