Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Elizabeth Ese Alabi

There was a story in the Punch a couple of days ago, about a Nigerian woman who died in the UK shortly after childbirth. I didn't read much into the story and assumed it was simply another case of a visitor dying while on holiday, or something along those lines. The front page of today's Indy, on closer reading, tells a different story... I am seething.

A pregnant Elizabeth Alabi came to visit her partner in Grays, Essex. While in Britain, she fell ill. Doctors diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy. The solution was for her to get a new heart. No problem. After all, the UK is proud of the National Health Service - the fifth largest workforce - she would get good treatment. There might be donor shortages, but she'll at least be put on a priority waiting list. Right? Wrong.

Elizabeth Alabi was a tourist in this country, and therefore not entitled to free treatment on the NHS. This ensures that only people who are entitled to treatment get service, along with those who pay for the service (such as people in private care, but using NHS facilities). In the past, there had been issues of health tourists who come into the UK, simply for the NHS's "free at the point of use" ethos. What if you didn't come to the country as a health tourist, but as visitor who fell ill while in the UK? Under new rules, Her Majesty's Government makes no provision for such people.

After several legal challenges, the stroke of a judge's pen condemned Elizabeth Alabi to death. She might not have gotten a heart in time to save her life, but she wasn't even considered. And that is the rub. She should have been considered for the simple reason that this was an organ donation issue. It would not have mattered if she was paying for service or not, because organs for transplant are not bought and sold commodities. They are free.

It should be noted that she couldn't go back home to Nigeria because she was too ill too travel. It should also be noted that she never once overstayed her holiday visas. And it should be remembered that her partner pays taxes in this country and has leave to remain. If he was in her position, the state would have looked after him. But the state could not extend that courtesy, nay, right, to his nearest and dearest.

A callous, faceless, and deeply prejudiced immigration system is partly to blame for Elizabeth Alabi's death. The British Government might not have its hands dripping with Elizabeth Alabi's blood, but the splashes are there, perhaps on its lapel or a speck on its sleeve. The blood is there.

We all talk about immigration, about keeping the "others" out. I emphasise, as I always have, that none of use chose where we are born. Yet, in today's world, where we are born might just determine how we die.

I was originally going to attack the way immigration is debated, not just in Britain, but in the US, and the world over. But I saw the Indy story, and it overshadowed things somewhat. "Illegals" appears to be the mot du jour, as if a human being can be described as illegal. I, in my obvious ignorance, thought that perhaps an act could be illegal. But never did I think human being can be an illegal person. As if the act of being was against the law. Once you dehumanise a person, you can reduce them to statistics and characterise them using their immigration status. As if that were what a defined them as human beings. The case of Elizabeth Alabi, sadly, has proved this.


ayoke said...

True. In today's world, where we are born might just determine how we die.

Sad stuff.

TMinx said...

It must be very painful for the family for her to be so close to being saved and then not even being considered.

This stuff is depressing, surely discretion should be applied n such cases.

Was money and issue? Could she have offered payment?

Nkem said...

Nobody was asking her to be put ahead of anyone else. The question was: why couldn't she have been put in a place consonant with her condition? This wasn't about her being given an unfair advantage, it was about her being a human being who required treatment.

From a legal perspective, it was iffy at best, and from a moral perspective, immoral.

And no, it doesn't make us appear like dim turds. It is merely fighting for what is right. Being Nigerians should not preclude us speaking up. I sense a bit of "these silly immigrants should shut up" in your comments.

Your points about NDDC and oil revenue mean nothing in this case. The woman was in the UK, and required treatment here, simple as.

Anonymous said...

@obukun: first of all she didnt leave nigeria to get treatment here, so speaking on this case in isolation; your comments on anything to do with the pathetic state of Nigerian health care are moot. she left nigeria not knowing she needed medical help and would probably have left this country to find help elsewhere if she could.

English people are dieing too but at least they have some hope of being treated...they'll be put on a donor list and not condemned to death by effectively being left stranded in a country which refused to give her the treatment she needed.

I guess she's unlucky her visa didnt expire. otherwise she could have turned herself into the immigration authorities and kindly asked to be deported; but couldnt be because she wasnt fit to travel, and so something would have had to be done to get her out of the country alive. And as illegal immigration is making more headlines than a failing NHS nowadays then she surely would have been patched up to a "fit to travel" state before they gave her the boot. at least that way she could have tried to get some sort of medical aid in another country.

And as was said in the original blog, money was never an issue in this case as even if she had opted to go private, she still wouldnt have been treated as its an issue of organ donation where everyone (private or NHS) has to jump on a queue; a queue which they decided she was illegible for.
Dont let a beaureaucratic system put in place to crunch numbers blind common sense.

Anonymous said...

and sorry i meant bureaucratic not whatever i just misspelt there.

j said...

ai'hammed delot,

you fail to understand the point and are not articulate, see my comment on you on dilch's blog

Anonymous said...

@ obukun: I'm sorry, i'm missing something; so what exactly was the point of bringing up the Nigerian healthcare system into your discussion?
@ J: if you're refering to your comment on Dilch's page about me being "a nuisance" i refused to comment because in that particular blog because i agree i was. however i'm not in any way or form trying to say anything rude here so i dont agree. furthermore what part of the comment do you find inarticulate? i could always try and explain again.

culturalmiscellany said...

On question for you all. Firstly, did she have any idea about her heart condition before she travelled? Secondly, if I was to visit Nigeria and the same thing occurred what would happen to me?

I just remember one fact, whenever I have applied for a VISA to travel somewhere, the first question I have been asked is "Do you have sufficient health insurance to travel?". I have always assumed that should I get sick overseas it is my responsibility to look after myself as the country to which I have visited has no legal obligation to treat me.

To me its a travel basic, whether adventure travel or not.

By these statements and questions I am not saying that this situation was treated fairly, properly, morally correct. I just wanted to introduce a different angle. Feel free to slate me for it!

j said...

Ogbeni obokun,

aihammed delot never understands the point

Anonymous said...

@culturalmiscellany: I gather from the way the article was worded that she knew nothing about her heart condition before she left Nigeria. The article said she fell ill in England.
Secondly if you were to travel to Nigeria, you wouldn’t get the same treatment – I think you’d be totally ignored or even laughed at for suggesting a free service in a country where you have to buy your own water for operations in the general hospitals. We don’t have a full NHS system like the UK’s and if we did have one, it probably wouldn’t be able to cope with foreigners.
Furthermore if she did have health insurance, its arguable whether anything would have been done to put her on the “priority list” which is reserved for those entitled to NHS treatment (British citizens), EU Nationals and people from a select group of countries. Nigeria isn’t one of them, so basically she could have had all the health insurance she could afford, in fact she could have gone private and turned up at her hospital with gold bars – she is from Nigeria and would automatically have been put on a lower priority list.
Which is what the blog was about – people seen as inferior cos of their nationality.

Now switching briefly to Lilo and Stich.
@ obokun – There’s really no need to seek a joint consensus on what you or anyone else might think of me. It’s quite clear we have differing opinions. What I fail to gather is why you’ve let this get personal on several other blogs. Bagman - You keep carrying this entire load and your head might start hurting.
@ j – You really don’t show up anywhere with anything to say do you. You simply put in an appearance with your Kalahari bushman photo and drop absolutely irrelevant one-liners. You’re the David Batty of the blog world – a spoiler. Do you even really exist or are you just "someone’s" alter ego/sidekick type personality; invented to seemingly bolster a weak argument. It was funny and I did laugh, but this isn’t my blog and this isn’t about any of us, so if you’d like to carry on with this apparent display of petulance then I suggest you click on my link. I tried yours – but then all that came up was the bushman with no profile and no points.

j said...

@aihammed delot: Your head is clearly hurting, however, let me borrow from the wise words of Ogbeni obokun who thinks you have some sense, "I have nothing further to add to my original comment"

Anonymous said...

@aihammed delot: your head must be truly hurting, you never have any valid point to make

Anonymous said...

@aihammed delot: you clearly have lost the plot

Anonymous said...

aihammed delot you are stirring up a fight?

Anonymous said...

This is too funny and I think I’ll leave it here cos this might go on for a while. Just to confirm, I didn’t put up the last Aihammed delot comment which said: "@aihammed delot: your head must be truly hurting, you never have any valid point to make" - which is why when you click on that link it takes you to alayescoro's page.
So no alayescoro i havent lost the plot...yet.
@grace & everyone else: I swear I’m not starting a fight, but these guys are cyber stalkers who've chased me from one blog to another; they've worn me down and have finally gotten the better of me - I GIVE UP, LEAVE ME ALONE. Its a shame the point of this blog was lost just because I had the nerve to question a point.
This is an official disclaimer: I’m leaving no other comments on this blog. Anything else that appears under my name is not me. There’s an impersonator in your midst. Goodnight.

Anonymous said...

Please ignore my last post. My head is really hurting. I have to go and sleep now. I am sorry everybody. Click on my link and see what page it takes you to.

Good night.

Bent out of shape said...

I fail to see the point here. Somewhere along the way, the point of the entire post was lost, and everyone decided to point out delot's faults. I don't think he's done anything but state his opinion... Leave him alone. Stay on point and pour out your frustrations on the fact that a woman lost her life! Leave delot alone. Geez. If what he's saying is not to your liking, ignore him. If he insults you or comes at you first then feel free to say something back. Till then, hold your peace.

@ nkem: This is truly a sad story... Very sad. Did they release any comment at all after she died?

Anonymous said...

and J, stop using my name to make comments. It is starting to get obnoxious and intrusive.

Anonymous said...

grace both yourself and aihammed delot are impersonators. I am the real grace.

Anonymous said...

Very sad and painful. I choose to ignore some of the comments here

Nneka's World said...

Wow, that is really sad.

Could they have not refered her to BUPA or something.
Oh well

Noella said...

Do you guys realise that you just HIJACKED this post!! It's a bit self-centered don't you think?? And please leave Delot alone. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his comment, at least it was on point. Unlike some people who only came on this blog too comment about Delot.
This was a heart-wrenching story about a poor woman who died because of arguably racist immigration policies and all you guys can do is carp over who is the most annoying. I'll give you a hint. It's not Delot

Monef said...

Back in line with the post:

I think the whole thing is a terrible tragedy, but for once, I actually believe that we have arrived at this sort of situation because of the attitude of the general public.

In recent times, iffy immigration laws are being passed as reaction to the continual moaning of the public about all sorts of crap. The current attitude of the public is to blame immigration for all their problems.

You also have to account for all the people who have in the past abused the system beyond belief. They have brought about the creation of a situation where sweeping laws that profit no one and are decidedly racist are passed. They have caused us all to take a step backwards.

It's not that the government is blameless in this, but we all are too. The blood of Ese is on everyone's hands.

Anonymous said...

I am glad i have the pportunity to say somethng about Ese Elizabeth. I have never been so touched in my life. I was in tesco when i saw hr picture on the independent i never bought that paper but for Ese i bought independent that day. On reading the story i sobbed all day. I said to myself how can something like that happen to such a beautiful lady. I couldn't give up looking at that picture she looked soo beautiful but at the same time i said to myself she is gone. Elizabeth may your soul rest in peace i will not blame anyone for her death. God knows about what will happen to everyone and i guess this was just her time it doesn't seem right but God knows best. Elizabeth, may your soul rest in peace snd these kids you have left, the Lord will take care of them. God bless you

Selah said...

It is very sad to hear about Ese. May her soul rest in peace. However as someone psoted previously travellers in to the UK should make sure they have adequate travel insurance to cover their stay. This isn't about being black or white, Nigerian or otherwise. Ese was a non-British citizen and therefore not entitled to free treatment on the NHS. Had she been married to her partner then maybe that would have been a different scenario.
But for the people shouting foul play there is another side to the story.
As a British born black person of Nigerian parents who happen to be from the same part of Nigeria as Ese, working here in the UK and paying heavy taxes to fund the NHS and other facilities is hard..very hard! If Ese had been in America she would not have gotten the treatment if she did not have health insurance. Had she been in Nigeria (sorry to say this) but she possibly would have died anyway because the lack of facilities there. There could have been 10 British tax paying citizens with similar a condition to Ese on the waiting list for the same operation. So while this is indeed a very sad case I hope that Nigerians travelling in future consider their insurance needs and do not depend on the NHS to get free treatment should they fall ill. There are people who have worked all their lives funding the NHS with their taxes and they should be given priority over someone who has just come into the country.