Monday, 26 September 2011


There is a general sentiment internationally that those individuals who are imprisoned still have certain rights. One of these is the right to decent healthcare. If the state sees fit to imprison you, it has an obligation to ensure you are kept healthy as far as is possible. In states without universal healthcare this can lead to the situation where prisoners can get better healthcare than the law abiding poor and one recent case illustrates one of the more bizarre instances of this.

And if a convicted prisoner should be entitled to be medically looked after then this should apply at least equally to those held on remand, who have only been charged with, and not yet convicted of, any offence.

Dengue fever is a common tropical disease with a relatively low mortality. There is no specific treatment but general supportive measures can reduce the mortality from 5% to less than 1%.

If a prisoner is ill with this condition therefore, and is denied medical care his chance of dying is increased 5 fold. This is exactly what has happened to Aslam Masih, who was arrested a year ago and died recently of dengue, compounded by neglect, before being given the chance to defend himself in court. 

And what horrendous crime had this man been charged with? I will give you a clue. He was in prison in that haven of free speech, Pakistan. Yes, another man dead, while charged with blasphemy.

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