Friday, May 19, 2006

Death by tourism

Abiodun Abe, a former post office worker with indefinite leave to reside in the UK, met Elizabeth Alabi when he returned to his native Nigeria for a holiday.

Their relationship blossomed and Ms Alabi - Ese - began to vist Mr Abe regularly at his home in Essex.

She was careful never to overstay her six month tourist visas.

In September last year, pregnant by Abe, she became ill and was told she couldn't fly home to Nigeria, as was her intention.

After giving birth to twins in February her condition worsened and she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, enlargement of the heart; her only hope was a heart transplant.

But new rules, brought in to quell negative public reaction to so called "health tourism" and media fuelled panic about immigration levels, decreed she had virtually no chance of receiving a donor heart.

When the case was taken to the High Court and her lawyers asked for a judicial review of the rules it was pointed out that her visa had expired.

Her case was adjourned and inquiries began into the legitimacy of her application for exceptional leave to remain in the country.

Last Friday doctors said that even if a heart became available and she was at the top of the list, it was too late.

She was too ill to survive the procedure.

On Monday night Abe took the twins to see her in the hospital. "She was a strong person and she tried to hold on," he said. "She gave the babies a kiss and touched them."

Later that night as he carried his and Ese's children upstairs to bed, the phone rang.

Ese was dead.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said:

"Whilst no person is wholly excluded from receiving an organ, priority is given to those who are entitled to NHS treatment. We believe this to be a lawful, fair and reasonable way of allocating organs."

Elizabeth Alabi was not British; she was not an EU citizen; she was not a citizen of a politically relevant country.

But neither was she a "health tourist" - she was simply unfortunate enough to fall ill here.

Source: Independent

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