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Sick and tired of pain, Kenyans fly out to procure aided suicide

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The epitaph on her grave reads, “To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain.” It is somewhat a representation of how she lived – and died.

TRAGIC STORY

Diana Elga Akinyi drafted the epitaph just days before she chose to die to free herself from excruciating pain and the numbing effects of medicines.

Long before she chose to die, Diana had had to bring herself to terms with her doctor’s verdict; that she had just a few days to live, because her malignant cancer had metastasized. But death was not coming, and her days were only filled with pain that only saw her use drug after drug.

In a corner of her room was a table laden with painkillers: Morphine oxycodone, fentanyl and others.

Her sister says that although these are the strongest painkillers, “at some point they seemed not to help much. She was in so much pain.”

“She used to cry a lot,” said the sister, who prefers anonymity in order to discuss the issue freely.

And so Diana continued waiting for death. When it was not coming eight years on, she made up her mind. She would fly out and have someone assist her to end her life.

This is Diana’s tragic story.

She was involved in an accident that resulted in a spinal injury, which saw her confined to a wheelchair for six years after two years in a hospital bed.

SPINAL INJURY

“My sister had an accident in 2009,” narrated her sister sombrely. “She was driving with her boyfriend on Ngong Road in the evening when their vehicle was hit head-on by another speeding car. The boyfriend died but she was injured.”

Diana, she said, was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital and later transferred to Kijabe Hospital. For close to two months, she was in the High Dependency Unit and then transferred to the ward. She would stay in hospital for close to two years.

Doctors ruled out the possibility of her ever walking again and when she was discharged, she could only use a wheelchair.

“She could not walk. We used to bathe her and clothe her. She wore diapers. We had to employ people to take care of her. None lasted a month. Initially, the forex bureau she used to work for sent her salary to her account for some time but stopped, I guess, because they lost hope in her ever going back to work,” the sister said.

As Diana was undergoing treatment for spinal injury, she was diagnosed with liver cancer after she developed some persistent abdominal pain. Doctors said the cancer was in advanced stages and because she was already taking painkillers, it had not manifested itself.

ORGANS FAILED

“The diagnosis made her condition worse. The doctors had to change her prescription and she had to undergo chemotherapy. She could not eat, her condition was pathetic… Her skin was hideous, she lost weight, her voice disappeared, and she cried night and day. Her lips were red. When she could, she took out her frustrations on Facebook, where she shared her story, with her pictures, before and after the diagnosis. At some point, she was so weak she just wanted to die,” her sister said.

On July 27, 2017 Diana wrote: “I have lived all I could. I created friends. God gave me a family. They have done all they could. Life cannot be anymore; death nears yet so far. To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Two days later, she called all her family members to a meeting and had a simple request: she wanted assisted suicide.

“She said she had researched about euthanasia online and she was going for it. By then her hospital bill had accumulated to Sh8.4 million and she knew that no matter how much we spent on her, she would still die. We refused and told her about the sanctity of life. We told her a miracle could happen; that euthanasia was illegal in Kenya… That no hospital could agree to that. We refused although we knew her organs had failed.

VERY FRAIL

“Later, her condition got worse and we took her to a Nairobi hospital. Sometimes she would writhe in pain and, in her very frail voice, she asked every doctor to switch off the ICU machines. She wanted death so much. One day when my elder brother was alone with her, she asked that we take her to a country where euthanasia is legal. She said she had done research online and was ready to die. She was persistent,” her sister said.

The family agreed to fly her to a European country that they prefer not to name and on October 16, 2017,  she bid farewell to her brother, mother and sister.

The sister says Diana’s last words to her were, “thank you”.

Wasn’t it expensive flying all the way to Europe to die?

“We spent less than half a million on travel, like Sh430,000 in total. The actual procedure was paid for by some activists my sister had met on social media. Apparently, she had joined some groups on Facebook and the members paid the hospital directly,” she said.

NO HOPE

They airlifted the body back to Kenya and buried it at the Lang’ata Cemetery.

Diana’s story is just one of many that illustrate the growing trend among Kenyans to seek mercy killings abroad in the face of laws banning the practice. Article 26 of the Constitution sanctifies life, making mercy killing illegal. The law states that “no one should be deprived of their life intentionally, save for the extent authorised by the Constitution or any other written law”.

However, several families have told the Saturday Nation that they have overseen assisted suicides and mercy killings of their kin who had endured a lot of pain, with no hope of being healed as the cost of medication skyrocketed with every passing hour.

Although the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board says mercy killing is not acceptable, some Kenyans have confessed to the Saturday Nation that they subjected their kin to passive euthanasia, where they asked doctors to pull the plug or switch off the dependency machines in hospital after they realised that there was no hope of recovery.

SUFFERING

A radio presenter confessed that when their four-year-old daughter who was born with mild methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder in which an abnormal amount of methemoglobin is produced, was later diagnosed with Leukaemia which affected her organs, they agreed as a family to just end her life.

“Our baby was suffering, her hospital bill had accumulated to Sh3.6 million and that is after we sold our land to pay part of the bill. She had spent almost half of her life in hospital. She was in and out of ICU and we could feel her pain. One day, we just told her doctor to switch off the machines and let her die peacefully because her small body had endured so much pain. It was painful, because every parent wants their baby to be healthy. But ours was suffering and to deny her death meant prolonging her suffering,” she said.

Asked whether she sometimes feels guilty for ending her daughter’s life, she said, “No, she was suffering and there were no hopes at all. Her organs had failed and there was never going to be a miracle about that.”

Assisted death and euthanasia in Kenya are classified as murder but, just like abortion, they are happening in secret. Nakuru-based criminal lawyer David Mong’eri asserts that assisted suicide is simply murder.

NOT PERMITED

“Even when someone has requested you or consented to it, it is simply a crime,” he told the Saturday Nation.

Article 43(2) also provides that a person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment. Similar provisions are also contained in international and regional human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, both of which Kenya has ratified.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board chief executive officer, Dr Daniel Yumbya, says that the Code of Professional Conduct and Discipline that guides medical practitioners does not permit assisted suicide in whatever form.

“Euthanasia in Kenya is illegal and doctors found conducting it should be prosecuted. It is criminal and unethical,” he said, adding that there have been no formal complaints against any doctor in Kenya.

In April last year, the High Court in Narok sentenced a couple, Emmanuel Kiprotich Sigei, 25, and Irene Nalomuta Sigei, 23, to 15 years in jail for killing their one-and-half-year-old baby because she was sickly. The couple, residents of Nasitori in Narok South Sub-county, on February 6, 2014 bought a chemical used to spray livestock from an agrovet shop and gave it to baby Brenda Chepkorir.

TABOO TAG

Justice Justus Bwonwong’a, while sentencing them, said: “The duty of the accused as parents was to take care and protect the deceased. Instead, they murdered her. Even if the accused thought this type of killing was a form of euthanasia, since the child was crawling and sickly due to flu, it is still an offence.”

Kenyans, and Africans in general, would traditionally rather have a person die naturally, even when there was no chance of survival, yet, since time immemorial, euthanasia has been practised, albeit under the tag of taboo.

Among the Nandi, for instance, the elderly who got “tired of living” would travel to Nandi and take their own lives by plunging down 150-metre cliffs overlooking Lelmokwo at Koigaro Falls into Chepteon River.

A resident of the area, Jeremiah Kosibon, said that in the olden days, those who courted death would hold hands, stand in line and then hunker backwards down the cliff.

“This was a sure way of dying. There was the alternative of drowning in a river, but no one wanted to conduct this. It was easier this way,” Mr Kosibon said.

FOUND GUILTY

The closest Africa has gone towards legalising euthanasia is when a South African court recently ruled that a terminally ill man, Robin Stransham-Ford, could have a doctor assist his death by lethal injection or lethal medication. But still, South Africa has not legalised euthanasia and, in fact, last year, it sentenced leading pro-euthanasia activist Sean Davison to three years in prison after he was found guilty of premeditated murder for helping three people to kill themselves.

In some countries such as Netherlands, euthanasia is permitted, but the law only allows it to be done on persons who are experiencing unbearable physical or mental suffering without possibility of cure.

A lot of paper work is done prior to euthanasia, which must be done under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

Other countries where euthanasia is legal are Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada. Assisted suicide is also permitted in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

In America, states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Maine, New Jersey and California have legalised euthanasia.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Renowned Australian ecologist and botanist David Goodall was 104 when he travelled to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide after trying to kill himself in vain. He was not sick, but he chose death simply because “the quality of his life had deteriorated”.

“My abilities have been in decline over the past year or two, my eyesight over the past six years… I feel I have lost my dignity and self-respect… I no longer want to continue living. I’m happy to have the chance tomorrow to end it,” Dr Goodall told the media in Switzerland before his death. He remains one of the most cited examples in global discourses on euthanasia.

There has been a push in Kenya for its legalisation but it has not really gained momentum. Ann Ngigi, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya once wrote: “Kenya should legalise euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide for deserving cases. Without legal guidance, it is difficult to know when to cease life support if a patient’s condition will not improve.”

There have been several debates in Parliament, at medical practitioners’ conferences, among lawyers and other fields. But religious leaders have been categorical that euthanasia should not be allowed.

LETHAL INJECTIONS

Reverend Canon Peter Karanja, the former secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, says that the Bible forbids killing.

“Life is therefore of God. He gives, and he takes. We have no right whatsoever to take life, as the Fifth Commandment orders,” he said.

He, however, separates the killing of someone who is sick from turning off machines in hospital, saying the latter is not killing.

“There are instances when the family and the doctors are well aware that without the machines assisting life, a person will die. In this case, I think there is no need to hold on just because technology is available. I am however against instances where someone is subjected to a lethal injection, suffocation and the likes, simply because they are suffering from ill-health,” he said.

LIFE SACRED

Human rights crusader Abdimajid Mohamed Ali says that even though euthanasia happens, it is wrong.

“It is bad. I will never advocate it. It is God who gives life and he is the one who takes it, why do you want to terminate it?

He says that according to the Koran, life is sacred.

“In the Koran 17:33, Allah says in the Koran ‘You shall not kill any person – for God has made life sacred,’” he said.

Sociologist Salmona Oketch observes that many people opt for mercy killing or assisted suicide after they lose hope in good health.

DIGNITY FADE

“There are people who would rather die than subject their families to a lot of problems. Some of them would rather not see their dignity fade way so they go for what I would call premature death. I see nothing wrong with that, only that it is illegal here,” she said.

By nation.co.ke


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Lifestyle

My cruel marriage to politician’s son

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Like any other woman about to get married, Esther Kisaghu was eager to tie the knot with her soulmate. When she finally settled down with the son of a prominent politician, who retired in 1988, it was all bliss. In her mind, the Cinderella life was a reality.

But she was wrong. She soon realised that marriage life wasn’t the bed of roses she had envisioned.

“I started like any other girl who is happy to get married. But soon, things changed. I started experiencing domestic violence,” reveals Ms Kisaghu, who studied at Alliance Girls’ High School, before going abroad for further studies.

She joined Boston University in the United States for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“When I was in the middle of my studies, my fiancé requested me to come back for us to get married…

“I didn’t complete my studies. Two years after we got married, however, he changed. He started strangling me, but I kept quiet,” she says.

Ms Kisaghu, who got married at 27, later completed her Bachelor’s at African Nazarene University in Kenya.

She says her husband beat her up regularly without any reason.

“It does not matter what the victim does, as long as the perpetrator wants to beat his victim, it will happen. Nothing the victim does, will stop the violence — only if the abuser changes. He chose to beat me, emotionally and psychological tortured me — it was his choice. At the heart of abuse is power and control — the twisted behaviour to control and abuse the victim,” says Ms Kisaghu, who has since founded The Rose Foundation, which assists women undergoing abuse in marriage.

“His family was powerful when he was abusing me. He also abused substance. However, as an expert in domestic violence, I later realised that drunkenness does not cause violence. It merely exacerbates it. There is no causal link between being a drunk and violence. Violence is a choice,” she says.

When the mother of one realised she was going through suffering with her son, she thought of means to get out of the marriage after nine years of painful experience.

Wanted to stab me

“After seeing my life in danger, when my husband wanted to stab me with a knife, I decided to go and study for a second degree in America,” she says, adding that, that was the only means of escaping from death that was staring at her.

However, it was hard to escape and she had to devise ways out.

“I was married to a powerful politician’s son. So, escaping to the US via the studies route was not easy at all, especially because I left with my son — a no, no, in African culture,” narrates Ms Kisaghu, who was born in Taita-Taveta County.

Nevertheless, she joined Boston University, again, to study Public Health – International Health at Master’s degree level. Her going for further studies in 2004, she says, was just an escape.

“My life was in danger. I used the opportunity… to keep safe in another country with my son.”

It was at the university that it dawned on her that domestic violence is preventable.

“During the four years of studies, I decided that I should come and assist people back at home.”

Indeed, when she was done, she returned to Kenya and opened a new chapter in her life by establishing The Rose Foundation in 2015.

Gender-Based Violence

Prior to that, she volunteered her services at the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre at Nairobi Women’s Hospital for six months.

She says safety planning to escape for victims is crucial, and that 70 per cent of homicides happen after the victim has left.

“Many women in Kenya get killed when the husband follows them to their new life. It’s true that victims face death every day in violent marriages, but when leaving, a safety plan must be put in place.

At The Rose Foundation, we do domestic violence training, which includes safety planning,” says Ms Kisaghu, who spent 11 years trying to get a divorce because her husband kept interfering with the case.

Children are affected

Ms Kisaghu notes that many children are affected psychologically when they witness domestic violence in their homes.

She says that victims ought to realise that leaving a violent home is possible, “no matter how difficult it is.

“What is important is to do a safety plan,” says Ms Kisaghu who is also the author of The Triumph of My Life: Domestic Violence and Society’s Thundering Silence.

by nation


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Lifestyle

Peter Gwengi: ‘Accepting I had HIV saved my life’

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“Can you imagine for the many years since I signed a memorandum of understanding with my virus, I have lived a happy and peaceful life. We have been faithful to each other,” this was Peter Gwengi’s opening statement when we visited him at his home in Migori County.

It was his wife’s poor health that made him test for the virus. He learnt about his wife’s status, and eventually his own, in a cruel manner.

“She was seriously ill and admitted to hospital in Migori, but when there was no change, and her health deteriorating, I requested to move her to a better hospital. A nurse called me on the side and whispered, ‘why are you wasting your money treating her and she is going to die anyway. She is HIV positive’,” said Mr Gwengi.

He did not believe it. He called the family doctor, who confirmed that his wife was HIV positive and had been taking drugs for six years. She had kept the news away from him, perhaps due to fear of stigma and rejection. “For six years, living with someone and not knowing she is HIV positive, and many people, including some of my family members, knew her status. I was the only one who had been in the dark all along. It took a toll on me,” he said.

Opportunistic infection

Fearing the worst, but determined to get it over with, Mr Gwengi got tested for the virus. Even though he had prepared himself for the worst, when the test came back positive, he was devastated. Nine months later, his wife died. He lived in denial for two years, not talking about the disease to anyone — not even close relatives and friends — and refusing to take medication.

The two years were not easy for him. It was one opportunistic infection after another, but he would not accept that he had the virus. He thought of committing suicide.

He could not get out of his house or face his family or friends because of the stigma that came with the disease.

“One thing that I kept on asking myself — and I did not have an answer — is, where the disease came from. But thinking deeply, I believe I contracted HIV when I worked as a field officer in the early 1990s, a job that kept me away from home for long periods,” he said .

One day in 2001, he got seriously ill and was rushed to hospital unconscious. It was after several counselling sessions and being told that he was going to die and leave his three daughters orphans that made him accept his status. He then did everything he could to prolong his life.

 Telling his inner circle of friends about his HIV status was easier than he had expected, because he had accepted it.

He was placed on drugs, and thanks to his employer, Mr Gwengi was fully insured and would get his drugs using his medical card. Having seen how his wife suffered, he vowed to keep to the drugs regimen.

“One day, I woke up and told my virus now that we are partners and they are going to be part of me forever, they should not put me down and I will not disturb them. I would obey and follow all the requirements. And that’s how I have been living with my virus,” he narrated to the Nation.

Mr Gwengi said he maintains a well-balanced lifestyle, healthy diet, taking antiretroviral drugs on time, exercising, having adequate rest, and dropping bad habits such as taking excessive alcohol.

“HIV is a very jealous virus. If you are to take your drugs, for instance at 9pm, and you skip, it will eventually notice that something is not right and it will attack with several diseases until you adhere to the rules,” said Mr Gwengi.

Stress, he points out, is also dangerous and can undermine your health.

“This is one of the most faithful viruses. It does not want to be disturbed and it will not disturb you. All you need to do is just to accept that you have it and it will respond positively. Get yourself good friends and family members who encourage you positively.”

Mr Gwengi founded an advocacy organisation, where he runs campaigns to promote positive living and acceptance of people with HIV.

by nation.africa


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Courts

Fraud case opens lid into the sophisticated art of con game

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When seven suspects took to the dock to plead to fraud charges, they looked ordinary. Like any Tom, Dick and Harry – plain. But underneath the veneer of simplicity lay a suave and sophisticated lot that has opened the door to the world of conmanship.

The seven, who had purported to be officials from the Office of the Deputy President, were yesterday charged a fresh over a Sh180 million fake tender scam.

Allan Kiprotich Chesang, Teddy Awiti, Kevin Mutundura Nyongesa, Augustine Wambua Matata, Joy Wangari Kamau, James William Makokha alias MrWanyonyi and Johan Ochieng Osore appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku and denied the charges.

They were charged afresh after the prosecution consolidated their files.

They appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku after the prosecution consolidated their files.

The suspects, who duped the victim into supplying 2,800 pieces of laptops in August 2018, had forged a Local Purchase Order (LPO) purported to have been issued by a Mr Mulinge, an assistant procurement officer at the DP’s office.

Their case is a classic example of the tremendous transformation fraud – originally associated with dingy downtown areas, and targeting the naive and less educated people – has undergone in the last few years.

Lately, the majority of the victims – as the recent case of a high-ranking diplomat – are well exposed people.

But what has baffled detectives is the fact that some of the serious fraud cases are executed in high-level government and security offices.

According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the State House, Harambee House, Harambee House Annex, the United Nations, the Department of Defence (DoD), Jogoo House police offices and Afya House, are among places where fraudsters have either pitched tent, or purported to operate from.

The Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit of the DCI is currently investigating a case of fraud involving millions of shillings by suspects posing as UN staff.

The gang, including a man and a woman who the DCI a fortnight ago listed as wanted persons, are also wanted for bank fraud offences.

The DCI, in a notice in the newspapers, indicated that Gerald Gatheru Mwai and Gladys Mwara Kamau, were wanted following a warrant of arrest issued by a Milimani court in Nairobi, on October 16.

Apart from the case before court in which a warrant of arrest was issued against the duo, the two are also said to have been duping unsuspecting businessmen over nonexisting tenders at the UN.

The victims are issued with fake Local Purchase Orders (LPOs) after parting with some money, and would be directed to specific companies to purchase tendered goods, especially drugs and rice, but told to pay and wait for the goods to be delivered, because the UN complex is a security zone.

Some of the victims told detectives that since access to the UN compound was restricted, they were convinced to surrender the goods to a team of ‘UN staff’ to deliver. The fraudsters would then disappear with the goods.

The gullibility has been baffling, a clear proof that no one is immune to fraud.

In the latest fraud case involving Sh300 million that was in court on Wednesday last week, the victim, Haile Menkerios, is said to have served in different senior positions within the UN.

The suspect, businessman and former Embakasi East parliamentary aspirant

Francis Mureithi, is alleged to have defrauded Menkerios under the pretext that he could help the diplomat secure a food supply tender at the DoD.

Menkerios, 74, has served as the Head of UN office to the African Union (UNOAU) and as a Special Representative to the African Union.

He has also served as the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan.

According to Psychology professor Robert Cialdini, people fall for scams due to a number of reasons, including the principle of reciprocity or enforced indebtedness used to elicit unwise action from the targeted victims.

“Not all fraud victims are risk-taking and greedy individuals seeking to make a quick shilling. They come from a variety of socio-economic, educational, age and gender backgrounds,” a senior detective at DCI headquarters said.

And the fraudsters are not the ordinary slinky characters who operate covertly. Some of them are ubiquitous characters who use their community and professional credibility and respectability to con.

In most of the cases, fraudsters disguise themselves as employees of certain institutions and forge LPOs and letterheads to send fake tender bids to unsuspecting companies or businessmen with requests to supply goods.

DoD In another case at DoD in August this year, the once high flying former assistant minister Danston Mungatana was arrested by detectives from Kilimani DCI together with Collins Paul Waweru for the offence of obtaining money by pretences, forgery and making of a false document.

The two had obtained Sh1 million by pretending they were in a position to help a business person to secure a non-existent Sh70 million tender, purportedly to supply cereals and building materials to the DOD. After the complainant parted with Sh1 million, she was called to a Nairobi hotel to meet “a senior officer who would help push the alleged business opportunity”.

AFYA HOUSE

In March this year, detectives arrested Mercy Waihiga Wanjiku alias Linda Masake Mugundu for obtaining goods valued at Sh37 million from a businessman in another fake tender at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Afya House.

Wanjiku, together with other suspects, posed as senior MoH Health officials and lured Eastleigh businessman Ibrahim Adan to deliver 20,000 boxes of hand gloves, 1000 pieces of non-contact infrared thermometers and 579 boxes of face masks worth Sh37 million.

The meetings -to award the fake tender MOH/DPPH/DNMP/001/GFONT/2019- 2020 dated May 4 to Rocketway Construction Ltd -were held at the boardroom used by the Human Resources department. According to the businessman, every time he visited Afya House, he would find the ‘officials’ waiting for him and they would quickly whisk him past the security officers at the reception.

by Zadock Angira, PD.co.ke


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