London, 9 May – An Iranian man has attempted suicide after being unable to pay for his treatment at a Tehran hospital. Ali Shafie began experiencing extreme pain in his stomach and sought help at Milad Hospital. Shafie was refused treatment after being told his insurance booklet had expired and he was unable to pay the three million rial ($95) fee.
Shafie’s pain was so severe he threw himself off the third floor of the hospital and is currently in a coma. He has a wife and two children under ten years old. His outlook is poor, with reports that he may be brain dead.
“However, the hospital officials simply would not back down. They were demanding the three million rials. Neither my brother, nor those accompanying him, had the money. He was suffering from such pains that he finally decided to throw himself off the third floor”, his brother is quoted as saying.
The Iranian Constitute entitles Iranians to basic healthcare. Iran’s citizens however spend a large portion of their income on medical treatment- as much as 55% of health spending comes out of pocket. Refusing to treat Ali Shafie when he was in extreme pain for bureaucratic and actuarial reasons is a violation of his human rights, rights activists say.
Shafie’s desperate cry for help comes at a time when the extent of government embezzlement in Iran is becoming apparent. The Panama Papers leak showed billions in offshore accounts some of which were tied to Iranian officials.
Nasser Saraj, President of the Iran Observation Organisation told the state-affiliate IRNA news agency in November 2015 an individual was receiving oil from the Oil Ministry with arrangements to pay the government, yet somehow he stole 1.6 trillion rials (some $30 million) and fled to Canada. The former Oil Minister Mohammad Gharazi put the amount lost to smuggling and embezzlement in Iran at over $25 billion and there is little appetite to stop it by officials.
Iran’s population is incredibly young, and demand for public services is only expected to increase in the coming decades.