CAIRO â€” EgyptÂ agreedÂ to conduct clinical trialsÂ to help find a treatment for COVID-19 back in March.
However, several family members of patients infected with the novel coronavirus told Al-Monitor over the phone thatÂ they were not directly and expressly notified that the treatment was part ofÂ aÂ clinical trial.
Hasna Abdul Rahman, the daughter of a patient in Assiut governorate, told Al-Monitor that her father â€œshowed symptoms at the end of May, and he had a fever and dry cough for two days before he decided to consult the doctor at the hospital.â€
She added, â€œWhen we headed to the hospital, they at first refused to take a swab to detect the virus. ButÂ with the quick escalation of symptoms, they finally agreed and the result came back positive. We were notified that he would be admitted to one of the quarantine hospitals because of his old age and serious condition. We left the hospitalÂ and were forbidden any contact with him.â€
â€œSix days later, we received a call from the hospital administration telling us about his deteriorating situation. He lost consciousness and was put on a ventilator. We had to rush to the hospital to sign a form,â€ Abdul Rahman recounted. The nature of the required form was not disclosed at that point to the family.
She added, â€œAs soon as we reached the hospital, they asked us to sign a waiver on the hospitalâ€™s liability for the health of my father because they were using a new drug. When we objected, they threatened to take him off the ventilator to give other patients a chance, which would lead to his death. We relentedÂ under pressure.â€
Egypt still does not have a law regulatingÂ clinical trials.Â In May 2018, the parliament sent a bill to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to sign, but the president returned itÂ with remarks to reconsider. The law has not been discussedÂ since.
According to parliamentary spokespersonÂ Salah Hasaballah,Â â€œThe approval of the clinical trial law in Egypt has been delayed because the parliament has yet to examine the president’s remarks and is preoccupied with other laws.â€
Hasaballah told Al-Monitor that the law will be passed soon, â€œbefore the term of the current parliament ends.â€Â He did not specify a date.
On May 18, presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi said that Sisi has called forÂ expanding clinical trials on coronavirus patients, announcingÂ in a statement, â€œSisi called for moreÂ support for clinical trials related to coronavirus, considering the regional and international distinction of the research conducted by Egyptian research centers and universities.â€
A young man whose father died from the virus accusedÂ the Ministry of Health of tricking him and forcing him to sign a form he did not read. HeÂ told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity forÂ fear of persecution, â€œWe went to the hospital on June 13 after my fatherâ€™s condition deteriorated. He was immediately isolatedÂ after his blood oxygen level dropped to less than 80%, according to the doctor. He was placed in intensive care.Â The doctors said his condition was deteriorating, but that they would do all they could.
â€œOn the fourth day, I went to the hospital with my younger brother to check on our father. The doctor wanted to see me immediatelyÂ and he said my fatherâ€™s condition was bad and that a new treatment had been introduced in Egypt.Â Due to its scarcity, not all patients are allowed to take it, except after signing a routine form.â€
He said, â€œI first refused, but due to pressure from the doctor, I agreed.Â Six days later, the hospital called to tell us my father passed away. I went to the doctor who claimed the treatment would help my father, but he refused to take responsibility. He said I knew it was part of clinical trials for a new medication and that I agreed.â€
The young man added, â€œButÂ I had no idea these were clinical trials. I feel the doctor duped us to get the agreement. I am very angry because my father died without our knowledge that the treatment was only a trial.Â â€¦ I want to sue the hospital and the doctorÂ but I do not know where to start.â€
Mahmoud Fouad is theÂ director of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Medicine, which advocatesÂ for patients’ rights to health and medical care. HeÂ told Al-Monitor, â€œThe Egyptian government has been stalling on approving the clinical trialsÂ law, which is sorely needed.â€