Hamid Kehazaei: Australia responsible for 'preventable' death of asylum seeker
Australian immigration and asylum Hamid Kehazaei: Australia responsible for 'preventable' death of asylum seeker
Coroner Terry Ryan finds systemic flaws caused Iranian manâs death from infection contracted on Manus
The family of the Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei, whose death from infection on Manus Island was caused by a cascading series of errors and systemic failures in the Australian-run off shore detention centre, say ânothing will replace the life of their beloved son and brotherâ.
But they have urged the Australian government to heed the findings of the Queensland coroner Terry Ryan, which were handed down on Monday.
Ryan found that Kehazaeiâs death was preventable and recommended that healthcare on the offshore islands be properly funded and run â" and under the control of doctors â" or asylum seekers and refugees be moved to Australia.
âThe coronerâs findings of inquest is an exhaustive and powerful document and it will take some time â¦ to process it,â the family said.Coroners examine deaths in Australian immigration detention Read more
âThe family thanks the coroner for the thoroughness of his investigation and his findings and urges the Australian government to take his honourâs recommendations seriously.â
The coroner recommended that doctors treating asylum seekers and refugees on offshore islands should have control of patient transfers to hospital care in Australia. Doctorsâ recommendations for higher-level care are now routinely overruled by non-medically trained Australian Border Force officials and Department of Home Affairs bureaucrats.
The coroner also recommended that all deaths of asylum seekers and refugees sent offshore by Australia should be subject to a mandatory inquest in Australia â" essentially that they be treated as deaths in custody, as Kehazaeiâs was.
Kehazaei, whose name is more accurately translated Khazaei but whose Australian government documents list the former spelling, was a fit and healthy 24-year-old when he was forcibly removed from Australia to Manus Island in 2013, the coroner found. He had fled Iran fearing arrest and torture.
âMr Khazaei was well known by everyone at the RPC [regional processing centre]. He was considered polite and respectful to all, regardless of religious or cultural differences, and was well liked,â the coroner said.
On 23 August, 2014, Kehazaei presented to the Manus Island medical clinic with flu-like symptoms and a small lesion on his leg. The clinic did not have the basic antibiotic to treat his common tropical infection, and, despite treatment, Kehazaeiâs condition deteriorated rapidly.Dying refugee on Nauru barred from coming to Australia for palliative care Read more
Doctors on the island urged his immediate transfer to Australia but this was first ignored â" including by department of immigration bureaucrats who didnât read their emails for up to 13 hours â" and then rejected by the department.
After further pleading from doctors trying to treat him, approval was finally granted â" two days after the initial request â" to move Kehazaei, by now semi-conscious and septic. But the department ordered he be moved not to Australia but to Port Moresbyâs Pacific International hospital.
At the PIH, Keha zaei was was misdiagnosed, treated with broken equipment and left unattended as he grew critically ill.
He suffered a series of cardiac arrests and, by the time he was transported to Brisbaneâs Mater hospital, was profoundly brain-damaged.
In a 140-page finding, Ryan found that Australia held sole responsibility for Kehazaeiâs care and for the failures that led to his death.
Ryan said Kehazaei could have been saved by basic interventions at several points during his worsening illness but that âthe compounding effect of multiple errorsâ and âsystemic failuresâ in the offshore healthcare system had led to his death.
He was scathing about the standard of healthcare delivered to Kehazaei, and pointed out numerous failures which, combined, caused his death from a preventable infection.
âNo antibiotic was available at the Manus Island regional processing centre (MIRPC) clinic to safely and effectively treat the range of infections commonly found in a tropical setting, including the infection suffered by Mr Khazaei.
âThere were a number of significant flaws in the arrangements for Mr Khazaeiâs transfer from the MIRPC, including a lack of documented approval process, resulting in a missed opportunity to transfer him on a commercial flight to Port Moresby on the afternoon of 25 August 2014.â
Kehazaei was not transferred until the next day, by which time he was experiencing septic shock, the coroner found. âAt that time he needed to be transferred to a critical care facility in Australia.â
Ryan said healthcare on offshore islands to where asylum seekers and refugees were forcibly removed remained Australiaâs legal responsibility.
âIt is incumbent on the Australian government to implement sustainable systems for the delivery of health care that meet the requisite standard,â he said.
Ten people have died in offshore detention since Kehazaeiâs death. Ryan said further deat hs would be prevented by moving people to a place where healthcare standards were higher, such as Australia or New Zealand.
âHowever, I acknowledge such an approach is highly unlikely in the absence of a fundamental revision of the broader policy framework.â
A spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs said the department had provided full assistance to the inquest and was reviewing the coronerâs findings.
âThe department expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Mr Khazaei.â
In 2014, former immigration minister Scott Morrison told Guardian Australia Khazaei received âoutstandingâ care.
âWhen someone becomes ill they receive outstanding care from the people who work as part of our mainland detention network, and in the offshore processing centres that are under the management of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru,â he said.
The barrister representing the Khazaei family, Stephen Keim SC, said all of the coronerâs recommendations were important, but âin particular, the recommendation that a statutory process be put in place for an independent judicial inquiry into the deaths of all asylum seekers is a very important recommendation and one the government should act on immediatelyâ.
Kate Schuetze, Amnesty Internationalâs Pacific researcher, said Australia was failing its human rights obligations. âAnd that continues while people are being held on Manus in these cruel conditions and denied adequate healthcare while theyâre there.âOffshore detention won't be fixed by politicians. Can the high court help? | Richard Ackland Read more
Dr Barri Phatarfod from Doctors for Refugees said Kehazaeiâs death had laid bare the systemic failures of healthcare in offshore detention â"known flaws that had not been resolved.
âWe have so many cases [like Kehazaeiâs]. Itâs just a matter of time before this happens again.â
Th e president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Bastian Seidel, said bureaucrats should never be allowed to override a clinical decision made by a medical doctor: âThere comes a point when Minister â¦Peter Duttonâ© needs to be asked to take responsibility for the actions of his department.â
On Manus Island, those who knew Kehazaei in detention pleaded for his death not to be in vain.
âAll of us detained for years on Manus and Nauru have been waiting for justice,â wrote a fellow Iranian, Behrouz Boochani. âFor a long time we have been asking Australian courts and independent organisations to investigate the deaths in the prison camps, there are enough documents and witnesses to prove the harsh living conditions and lack of medical care.
âWe ask again the Australia close these prison camps and let us start a new life.âTopics
- Australian immigration and asylum
- Manus Island
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