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Indian clinic treats Bangladeshis seeking mercy deaths for free

Mumbai-based Institute offers stem cell therapy

MEHERPUR: In this photograph taken on January 20, 2017, Bangladeshi father and fruit vendor Tofazzal Hossain (top R-standing), who has sparked a debate over assisted suicide, is seen with his family. — AFP

DHAKA: Three Bangladeshis suffering from a highly debilitating form of muscular dystrophy are receiving free treatment in India after a relative’s plea for them to be allowed to die brought their plight to global attention. Fruit seller Tofazzal Hossain sparked a rare debate about euthanasia in conservative Bangladesh in January when he pleaded with the authorities to allow his grandson and two sons to die. All three suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration. Patients rarely live beyond 30.

Now the Mumbai-based NeuroGen Brain and Spine Institute has offered to treat them using a new stem cell therapy that it says has improved the condition of hundreds of patients. Spokeswoman Avantika Patil said the family had arrived at the clinic on Sunday after an Indian airline flew them free of charge. “The disorder is incurable of course. They suffer from severe form of muscular dystrophy,” she said, adding what the clinic was trying to do to was to improve their conditions.

Hossain said the treatment was the last hope for his sons and the grandson. “I am hopeful. They have carried out the first round of operations,” a tearful Hossain said by phone from Mumbai. “I hope they will be cured by the grace of Allah.” One of Asia’s poorest countries, Bangladesh has no free health care and medical treatment is often beyond the reach of many of the country’s 160 million people. An estimated 600,000 Bangladeshis suffer from incurable diseases, yet the country has just one palliative care centre and no hospice services.

This leaves few treatment options for Hossain’s sons, aged 24 and 13, and his eight-year-old grandson. Hossain said his sons were unable to move and could do little for themselves. The younger boy’s condition is better, but is worsening. Their plight has sparked a rarely-seen debate about euthanasia in Bangladesh, where attempted suicide can land you in prison. So-called “mercy killing” is forbidden both under the secular law of the land, and by the religious code adhered to by Bangladesh’s Muslim-majority population.–AFP

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