Death of Nobel laureate proves medical services in PH has prejudice against the poor

October 13, 2015


Scientist-activist group AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People condemns the inhumane treatment of a Manila hospital to the Nobel laureate Richard F. Heck that led to his tragic demise.

Feny Cosico, Secretary General of AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, expressed dismay and denounced the merciless action of the hospital to Heck. “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,” says Cosico.

Richard Heck was an American chemist residing in Quezon City, Philippines 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.

Heck has survived prostate cancer and has 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.

When he suffered severe vomiting he was rushed to the hospital but denied of emergency medical attention due to unpaid bills. His private nurse decided to bring him instead to nearest public hospital but time is not on their side which deteriorated Heck’s vital signs eventually leading to his death.

“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 queue 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” said Cosico.

Patients confined in public hospitals shoulder 73% of the total cost of confinement, while only 27% 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.

Philippine government’s allotment for health expenditure in 2013 is only 1.4% of GDP, which is relatively lower than its neighbor countries. Thailand is allocating 3.7% of their GDP, while in Cuba, their government spends 8.2% of their GDP.

“Heck is already included in the mortality rate wherein 7 out of 10 dying in the Philippines have not seen or consulted a doctor. Being a host country for a Nobel laureate, we could have provided him a more humane place in gratitude for his role in the field of medical science and one of the ways where we can repay him is to provide him the medical attention he needed”, ended Cosico.###

Feny Cosico, Secretary General, AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Tel #: 998-4226