The Health Stock Market of Lebanon

Political corruption in Lebanon has reached its utmost levels, by spreading into one of the most humanitarian sectors: Health. Every now and then a child dies due to his parents’ inability to pay for a reputable health care service. Yana, eleven years old girl, fell a victim of such a regime.

Yana was born with Tyrosinemia, a rare genetic disease that her family is a carrier of its genes. Tyrosinemia is an inborn error of metabolism in which the body cannot effectively break down the amino acid Tyrosine. Its symptoms include liver and kidney disorders. If not treated properly, Tyrosinemia is fatal.

When Yana was around one year old, her parents noticed that the baby girl showed some unusual allergic reactions to certain foods, and a development of a pale yellow skin color accompanied by a drop in the rate of growth. After being examined by several doctors and specialists, Dr Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, former minister of health and a liver transplant specialist, was able to diagnose Yana as a Tyrosinemia Patient. He described the little girl’s case as “severe but curable”. Through his words, the doctor was able to put the parents in relief for a while.

Yana was subject to different medical inspections, and a liver biopsy was sent abroad to be examined. On this basis, Dr Khalifeh gave out his statement, “Yana will survive after being subject to a liver transplant”. He explained that it is preferable that one of the parents would be the liver donor so that he could guarantee the success of the transplant. Dr Khalifeh also added that he will be the one to perform the operation but demanded a price of 70,000$, an amount that was a bit hard to afford. But, since the girl’s health started to decline as she grew up, her parents, relatives, and neighbors worked together to meet the expenses of the operation.

The child’s health status became very grave. On different occasions she temporary lost her sight, memory, and in some cases, her conscious. The behavior of Dr Khalifeh towards his patient started to be a little suspicious; he rarely answered the parents’ calls, and when he did his words seemed to contradict what he previously said. Dr Khalifeh at this point demanded 150,000$ for the operation, and claimed that the only way for the transplant to end up successful is by finding a suitable liver of a deceased person. Things got more complicated and Yana’s parents started to lose hope as the doctor had set up new measures for combating the disease.

By the end of October, the father gave Dr Khalifeh a call to ask for any updates on the case, but the answer came quite scandalous. Dr Khalifeh said that he had a matching liver a week ago but had no recipient, so the organ was disposed. Those words were enough for the parents to realize that their little daughter was a victim of an organ trade business, and all what Dr Khalifeh was aiming at is a bargaining power to profit from the transplant.

The young girl, who was not only fighting Tyrosinemia but also a monstrous business and a businessman whose soul was poisoned with greed, was moved into an intensive care unit on November 13th 2011. With the birth of the next day, Yana glanced helplessly at her mother until she passed away.

Yana is just one victim of this ongoing medical business, which is being at some points very clearly practiced in what common people thought of as reputable medical centers. In such a humanitarian crisis, the major blame is on the political regime which gives such business environment to flourish.

Hasan Harb

Published in Mish Jareedi May 2013 Printed Edition – click here to view original publication