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Penniless Nobel Laureate dies after private hospital refused to treat him

October 20, 2015 ·  By Manila Times for



PEOPLE the world over are angered and disgusted over the news that the 2010 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry died last Saturday October 10 after being refused treatment at a Manila private hospital because he had no money.

The wire services ran the story that Rappler on October 12 gave the title “Refused admission to Manila hospital, Nobel laureate Heck dies.”
Rappler’s story said, “Despite earning a Nobel Prize in chemistry, illnesses left Heck surviving on a monthly pension of $2,500.

“Two personal nurses took turns caring for Heck during the past year, according to a report from GMA News.

“One of the nurses, Jane Rose Pido, said Heck was rushed to a private hospital due to severe vomiting. Heck, however, was reportedly turned away due to unpaid bills.

“Of being turned away, Pido told GMA News, “It was painful to see, that the man was fighting for his life but he was left to die, because he did not have money. How could it end up like that? We didn’t know which hospital to take him to, so much time was lost. He could have been revived.” They then brought him to a government hospital where Pido said Heck’s “vital signs deteriorated rapidly, until he died.”

AGHAM condemnation

We agree with the group of scientist-activists, AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, who issued a statement saying the Nobel Laureate’s death “proves medical services in PH has prejudice against the poor” and condemned the hospital’s “inhumane treatment of Richard F. Heck that led to his tragic demise.”

Feny Cosico, Secretary General of AGHAM, said, “It is lamentable that it took the death of a renowned scientist who went through financial difficulty to open our eyes on the reality of the social services such medical treatment in the country is not for the poor. Heck was a victim of a profit-driven health care system and government neglect in the Philippines.”

Richard Heck was an American chemist who lived in Quezon City since 2006 with his Filipina wife Socorro Nardo-Heck, who died in 2012. Heck received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010 jointly with Japanese scientists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.”

Their study became very useful in broad range of medical applications such as testing potential anti-cancer drugs, creating new antibiotics, and breakthrough in automated DNA sequencing, including industrial applications such as in technology used in making thinner computer screens.
AGHAM said “Heck had survived prostate cancer and had been taking maintenance for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and slight dementia. He has been in and out of the hospital for pneumonia since 2013 which sucked out all his remaining fortunes.”

AGHAM’s Cosico added, “It is very ironic that Heck’s research has been used to advance medical breakthroughs aiming to save millions of lives yet he died not receiving treatment. This reflects the systemic problem with the health care system in the country wherein long queues of indigent patients hoping to get medical support for their loved ones is a common scenario in public hospitals. The right to public health and medical care regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic and social condition is a UN Declaration that the government must be reminded of whenever hospitals dismiss sickly people who can’t afford medical fees.”

The AGHAM statement explained that “Patients confined in public hospitals shoulder 73 percent of the total cost of confinement, while only 27 percent is covered by PhilHealth. The average cost of confinement in a public health facility is 43 times larger than the minimum wage, while private facilities cost 66 times.”

The “Philippine government’s allotment for health expenditure in 2013 is only 1.4 percent of GDP, which is relatively lower than its neighbor countries. Thailand is allocating 3.7 percent of their GDP, while in Cuba, their government spends 8.2 percent of their GDP.”
Something is gravely wrong in our society which is supposed to be made up mostly of Roman Catholic Christians.


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