A horrifying video that went viral last week is raising questions about the conduct of medical personnel in a Philippines hospital: Did they let a drug suspect die without giving him medical treatment?
The video shows a man profusely bleeding on a hospital bed and writhing in agony, while nurses and a security guard watch from a distance.
At one point, the man reaches his hands out to the guard in a plea for help; brushed off, he tries to prop up his wounded body, draping his leg on the bed’s rails as his blood drips to the floor.
Don’t get up, one of the nurses admonishes him; the guard also pushes him down. While the man squirms and gasps for breath, the nurses carry on with their conversation, with no evident sense of urgency to relieve the patient’s suffering.
Instead, one nurse casually notes that the injured man will not last long because of severe blood loss.
The man, identified in reports as Jimby Casas, 23, died an hour after being brought to the hospital.
Before his torturous death, Casas supposedly shot it out with the police in a “buy-bust” operation – just another “extrajudicial” fatality in the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs. The police brought Casas to the Tuburan District Hospital (TDH) in Cebu, where he died begging the hospital staff for help.
Hospital personnel have justified what appears to be their shocking indifference to Casas by saying he could not be attended to because he was spitting on them (Casas had gunshot wounds in the neck and other parts of his body).
But the few agonising minutes captured on video shows there was hardly any emergency medical intervention. As a Cebu paper noted, “the video did not show any hospital member attending closely to the patient. He was also not connected to a dextrose or oxygen tube.”
Instead, Casas was left on his own, the blood pouring from his injuries and what must have been unimaginable pain ripping through his shattered body as he laboured for his last breaths, while the medical personnel who were supposed to save him from death stood by.
That they could laugh at a man in the throes of death and leave him to expire in such a wretched condition, in the very place where the sick and the dying come to find succour, is unconscionable.
And where were the doctors who could have whipped the room into some semblance of action to save the fellow human being before them?
One of the many who reacted to the appalling video was an ER nurse, who said he found the incident “very disturbing and unacceptable”: “I am an ER nurse, I have seen a lot of ‘drug war’ victims. Even [if] they arrive at the ER dead on arrival, we still give them resuscitation. We may never know if they are suspects or victims. We are out of that matter, our call is to save someone who comes to our aid.”
‘You fought back’
So what could account for such troubling behaviour of medics at TDH?
The answer may lie in what one of the TDH nurses was heard saying to Casas “you retaliated [nanlaban]”.
In other words, it was all Casas’ fault. He was entirely to blame for having allegedly shot it out with the police. And that made him, in the eyes of this one medical worker, apparently unworthy of being saved.
Rights accorded by law – the right to immediate and appropriate medical care and humane treatment – didn’t apply. He was a lowlife, and he deserved his fate.
This inhuman incident cries out to be thoroughly investigated, and the nurses, doctors and the management of Tuburan District Hospital held accountable for any criminal neglect and violation of a patient’s rights that may be determined by such a probe.
The circumstances of Casas’ killing by the police should also be investigated, as his family said the man was begging for his life when he was shot.
Nearly three years of a merciless drug war that has spilled the blood of thousands of Filipino victims have apparently numbed the populace to the new normal, where life is damnably cheap and “nanlaban” is a licence for police to kill with impunity.
There is so much helplessness and silence in the face of this monstrous culture of violence. Now we can add callous indifference and casual cruelty to this war’s devastating effects. And, most disturbingly, it has even infected the ranks of the healers and lifesavers.