Sayeh receives pacemaker surgery after legal struggle; Palestinian prisoners continue to face medical neglect

bassam-sayehPalestinian prisoner Bassam Sayeh received surgery for a cardiac pacemaker on Thursday, 3 November and has been returned to the Ramle prison clinic, reported the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. The surgery came after extended legal work and campaigning by lawyer Arwa Hleihel, repeatedly seeking attention to Sayeh’s dire medical condition.

Sayeh, 43, is one of the most gravely ill Palestinian prisoners, suffering both from cancer and heart disease. From Nablus, he has been imprisoned since 8 October 2015, accused of participating in supporting a resistance operation against Israeli settlers. Sayeh was seized by occupation forces as he went to the Salem military court near Jenin for the hearing of his then-imprisoned wife Mona. Sayeh has leukemia that has spread to his bone marrow in addition to serious heart disease.

Sayeh’s case is one of the most severe cases among the 30 Palestinian prisoners suffering from cancer, among over 100 with serious and chronic diseases or disorders. Many Palestinian prisoners face a constant experience of medical neglect and lack of appropriate treatment; in Sayeh’s case, his lawyer has been struggling for months for the necessary surgery, and he has faced multiple occasions of interference with chemotherapy and denial of access to independent doctors.

Mohammed Rimawi shared his experience on 2 November with the Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisonsrs. Rimawi, who suffers from Familial Mediterranean Fever, was left without diagnosis or treatment for a long period of time. When his shortness of breath became extreme, following protest and the demands of his fellow prisoners, he was finally permitted to see a doctor in Ramon prison. One month later, he was taken to the Ramle prison clinic for testing. While he was severely ill, he was taken from Ramon prison to the Ramle prison clinic via the notorious “bosta,” on a journey which took days via multiple prisons, processing points and stops. In the Ramle prison clinic, he was misdiagnosed on two occasions over multiple months, first with diagnosis and then with lung cancer. A month after the lung cancer diagnosis, he was finally sent to Assaf Harofeh hospital. There, he was informed of his correct diagnosis, and while the hospital physicians advised that he needed to remain in the hospital, the IPS instead returned him to Ramle prison clinic. He did finally begin to receive the appropriate medication for his condition after a lengthy and unnecessary period of suffering.

The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission reported on 2 November regarding several Palestinian prisoners struggling with illness and not receiving necessary treatment.

Eyad Radwan, 36, is held in Ramon prison, where he is suffering from constant gastrointestinal pain and severe symptoms, head and chest pain. He was held for five years in the Ramle prison clinic with sick prisoners and apparently contracted an illness during that time. He has received no test results despite waiting through over five months of serious illness.

Salem Asad Zaghil, from Tulkarem, is also held in Ramon prison. He has suffered an abdominal injury that has persisted since he was injured by occupation forces when he was arrested; he also suffers from an irregular heartbeat. He has not been given any tests or medication or treatment. Ali Fahmi Dana of Jerusalem is also held in Ramon prison; for five years he has suffered from intestinal disease and has been met repeatedly with delays in treatment. He had an unsuccessful earlier hernia surgery and was told he would need surgery, yet no action has been taken and his pain continues.

Mohammed Fahim Shalaldeh, held in Ofer prison, is suffering constant and severe pain and dizziness, can no longer hear in his right ear, and has been told he is waiting for an operation, yet no apparent action has been taken. Ayman Khalil Hassan Ali, of Bethlehem, is also in Ofer prison, where he suffers from high blood pressure and spinal pain. He has passed out on several occasions and was once taken to Shere Tzedek medical center, but was then returned to prison and given no further treatment despite his persistent symptoms.