Egypt pays tribute to doctor who dedicated his life to treating the poor

Egypt pays tribute to doctor who dedicated his life to treating the poor
Egypt pays tribute to doctor who dedicated his life to treating the poor

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Dr Mohammed Abdel-Ghafar El Mashaly had a simple but heart-wrenching story to explain why 44 years ago he vowed to dedicate his working life to treating Egypt’s poor for little financial reward.

A diabetic 10-year-old boy asked his mother to buy him insulin, the doctor recounted in a television interview aired in May. The boy’s mother said his siblings would have nothing to eat for super if she bought him the medication, he continued.

The boy, sensing that his ailment was a burden on his impoverished family, decided to kill himself that night by setting himself on fire.

Dr El Mashaly – who passed away on Tuesday, aged 76 – was called to save the child's life, but the boy died in his arms.

“As he was dying he told me that he did that so his siblings can eat,” he said. “That was the day when I vowed to pledge my life to the treatment of the poor.”

Dr El Mashaly's death at the age of 79 – it was not immediately known whether he died of a specific ailment – triggered an avalanche of warm and lavish tributes on social media, including one from the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the head of the highest seat of Islamic learning in overwhelmingly Muslim Egypt.

The doctor lived in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiyah, north of Cairo.

His appearance was deeply uninspiring – “Does a car mechanic go to his shop wearing a business suit?” he once quipped – and he made no secret of why he charged his patients only 10 Egyptian pounds (Dh2.3) a visit when famous doctors charged up to 30 or 40 times that much.

“I have a rich wife,” he said nonchalantly.

Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, said Dr El Mashaly “set an example in humanity and he fully realised that we are not in this world indefinitely.

"So, he selected to help the poor, the needy and patients until the last day of his life."

Dr El Mashaly’s death came at a time when Egyptians are filled with gratitude for doctors and other members of the medical profession for their part in combating the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 medics out of the thousands infected by the virus since February have died.

In contrast, Dr El Mashaly’s death coincided with the admonishment that private clinics received from the government, the public and MPs for overcharging Covid-19 patients. Clinics were forced to lower their fees under a pricing system introduced by the government.

Updated: July 28, 2020 08:34 PM

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