Urgent appeal to support LHR client after high court judgment

Date: 21/10/2019

Lawyers for Human Rights is making an urgent appeal for assistance after a recent judgement by the Johannesburg High Court, which allowed the Helen Joseph Hospital to terminate life-saving dialysis treatment for a Johannesburg woman, Alem Ereselo. Without access to dialysis, Ms Ereselo will almost certainly die in the coming weeks.

On 11 October 2019, the High Court handed down judgement in the matter of Alem Ereselo v CE: Helen Joseph Hospital & Others case number 15448/19. Ms Ereselo, 36, is represented by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and is an asylum seeker from Ethiopia who has resided in South Africa for nine years. She approached LHR for assistance in April when the hospital first threatened to end her access to dialysis on the basis that she is not a South African citizen, despite being legally in the country as an asylum seeker for the last nine years, awaiting determination of her status.

LHR understands that other healthcare providers are now using the judgement to exclude this lifesaving treatment for other sufferers of kidney disease.

“This decision amounts to a death sentence for Alem” said Jessica Lawrence, an attorney for LHR. “The underlying policy unfairly differentiates between South African citizens and asylum seekers, and is more broadly, an assault on the right to health of the poor”.

Ms Ereselo remains an asylum seeker despite having applied to be recognised as a refugee nearly a decade ago after fleeing to South Africa in fear for her life. Prior to her diagnosis earlier this year, Ms Ereselo ran a grocer.

The Helen Joseph Hospital justified its decision to terminate Ms Ereselo’s life-saving treatment on the basis that it is permitted to do so in terms of a Department of Health policy, which it argues prevents asylum seekers from receiving chronic dialysis treatment.

LHR approached the Johannesburg High Court on an urgent basis for the continuation of Ms Ereselo’s treatment pending a constitutional challenge to relevant sections of the National Health Act and the Department of Health’s discriminatory policy. This policy unfairly differentiates between citizens and asylum seekers and fails to take into account the fact that asylum seekers cannot re-avail themselves of the protection of their country of origin.

On 18 October 2019, the Helen Joseph Hospital terminated Ms Ereselo’s treatment as sanctioned by the High Court, starting the clock ticking towards her death. LHR is preparing to launch additional legal proceedings shortly, in an effort to save Ms Ereselo’s life.

Given the lengthy nature of legal proceedings, LHR urgently appeals to other members of the private sector and individual donors to contribute to extending this life-saving treatment, pending the finalisation of the constitutional challenge.

Support for this case is generously provided by Legal Aid South Africa.




For more information contact:
Jessica Lawrence
Phone: 011 339 1960 / 082 772 9857
E-mail: jessical@lhr.org.za

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