A Ghanaian woman who was deported from Britain while undergoing treatment for terminal cancer has died in her home country just hours before friends learned of plans to bring her back to the UK for private treatment.
Ama Sumani suffered from malignant myeloma and was receiving kidney dialysis at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, but was deported after her UK visa expired.
Her removal from hospital by immigration officials in January was described as “atrocious barbarism” by the leading medical journal the Lancet.
Among her supporters was the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, who said today: “I am enormously sad to hear of the death of Ama Sumani. I believe her death is on the conscience of this nation because we deported her when it was against every humanitarian instinct to do so.”
Sumani died in hospital in Accra yesterday, two hours before friends rang with the news that they had found a UK doctor willing to treat her condition, a cancer of the bone marrow, and were about to apply for an emergency visa to allow her to return.
The 39-year-old widowed mother-of-two had been unable to pay the £2,400 required for a three-month course of treatment in Ghana, and the drug thalidomide, which would have extended her life, is unavailable in the country.
Friends in Cardiff raised some £60,000 for her care, which will now go to her 16-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son.
Since leaving the UK Sumani had been receiving dialysis in Accra’s Korle-Bu hospital, where she died.
Her friend Janet Simmons said: “I rang Ghana to tell her the good news and was told that she had died two hours before. She was just too tired to carry on and gave up.
“I am very sad and angry, and upset and disappointed that something like this could happen in Britain. My hope now is that lessons can be learned from this so that no-one else suffers a similar fate in the future.
“British troops lose their lives around the globe on humanitarian missions, but we could not lift a finger to give someone a dignified death when they were on the doorstep.”
Lin Homer, the chief executive of the Borders and Immigration Agency, told MPs in January that repeated judicial rulings had found that deporting those undergoing medical treatment did not amount to inhumane treatment, even if the person involved later had a relapse or died.
Today, she said: “This is a sad case and all of us feel sympathy for her family at this time. The circumstances surrounding the case were not unique, though.
“The case was carefully considered by both trained caseworkers but also through the independent judicial process, which is better and fairer than a decision by me as chief executive or by the minister.”