Gulf | Saudi Arabia

HIV infected girl’s family considers legal action

Lawyers say they are ready to help if legal action is taken against health ministry

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  • Published: 12:10 February 18, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:
  • Reham's classmates appeal for help from King Abdullah c courtesy family

Manama: The family of a 12-year-old Saudi girl who was given HIV-infected blood in a botched hospital transfusion last week is pondering legal action against the health ministry.

Reham Al Hakami, a sixth grader, is being treated in the Saudi capital Riyadh after the ministry transferred her from a hospital in Jizan in southwest Saudi Arabia where she was given the contaminated blood.

On Sunday, the ministry said that it sacked seven senior staff at Jizan General Hospital, including the head of the hospital, for their negligence as part of a series of measures recommended by an investigation team.

However, the girl’s father said that the actions taken by the ministry were only “relievers” and insisted that the authorities should transfer Reham abroad rather than wait for results of the tests to check her condition, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Monday.

A relative who was not identified reportedly said that the health ministry is attempting to persuade the family not to go to court over the issue amid pledges that it would exert its best efforts to provide Reham with the best treatment and help her live in dignity.

Several lawyers said that they were ready to volunteer their services to support Reham and her family if they choose to take legal action against the ministry for its negligence, news site Sabq reported.

The young girl’s condition sparked a deluge of compassionate and support messages on the Saudi blogosphere, especially after the innocent-looking victim issued a brief video call for prayers.

Her classmates made a passionate plea to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to help Reham and to ensure that they do not become victims of negligence. A picture of them holding signs was widely circulated on the net.

News that the health minister offered her an ipad when he visited her was described as “a move to silence her family” and was strongly condemned.

However, Khalid Merghalani, the health ministry spokesperson, denied the charges, insisting that it was a mere gift “from a father to his daughter”.

“The minister gave her the ipad because he knew she wanted to use it to read further, especially from the Holy Quran,” he said. “The gift was not meant as a compensation for what happened to her. Giving her contaminated blood was an unforgivable mistake and a committee is looking into her case and into the hospital,” he said, quoted by Al Sharq daily.

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