Hamid Kehazaei – the young Iranian asylum seeker detained on Manus Island who was declared brain dead earlier this week – has died after doctors at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane switched off his life support system this evening.
Mr Kehazaei was 24 years of age.
The Mater Hospital issued a brief statement this evening, announcing his passing.
“The Office of the Public Guardian today approved withdrawal of measures currently being applied to sustain ventilation to Hamid Kehazaei,” the statement read.
“Following this the family consented and life support to Mr Kehazaei has been withdrawn in accordance with the wishes of his family.
“This is now a matter for the State Coroner.”
While detained on Manus Island, Mr Kehazaei recently sustained a cut to his foot. It became infected and he developed septicaemia.
It’s believed Mr Kehazaei suffered a heart attack in hospital earlier this week, after being airlifted to the Australian mainland when he became gravely ill.
Authorities in charge of Mr Kehazaei’s care on Manus Island have been accused of ignoring complaints about his health and delaying his evacuation from the detention centre.
A message signed by detainees on Manus Island blamed staff from International Medical Health Services (IHMS) for Mr Kehazaei’s condition.
IHMS is an Australian company which provides medical services to government, including in immigration detention centres.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s ongoing investigation into the detention of children has heard evidence from IHMS staff members that medical evacuations from Christmas Island are often delayed or overruled by Australian Immigration officials.
But earlier today, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told BBC Asia detainees received "outstanding" medical care.
"When 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," he said.
Yesterday, health experts warned that more deaths in offshore detention centres were likely and called for the Abbott government to reinstate an independent immigration health advisory group.
In December 2013, the Coalition abolished the advisory group initially formed by the Howard government to provide independent health assessments to the minister.
Dr Richard Kidd, a Queensland representative for the Australian Medical Association and co-founder of Doctors for Refugees, told New Matilda yesterday that conditions on Manus Island were “woeful”, and that Mr Kehazaei’s treatment warranted independent investigation.
“I really do expect that we’re going to see other very serious bad health outcomes and probably more deaths, and I think this is a terribly shameful thing for Australia,” Dr Kidd said.
“This is why the AMA for quite a long time now has been strongly advocating for an independent medical authority to oversee the provision of healthcare services to asylum seekers and refugees.”
Sanitation and health problems in the Manus complex have long been flagged by asylum seekers detained on the island.
Victoria Martin, who has been in regular contact with a group of asylum seekers held on Manus over the past two years, said the centre’s insufficient facilities forced detainees to walk through sewerage, often barefoot.
“There are nowhere near enough ablution blocks or toilets, and in fact we get repeated complaints about the water supply not working at all,” she said.
“Because of inadequate plumbing, inadequate sewerage, inadequate toileting facilities, you also get large numbers of people that are using the same facilities and particularly when it rains the toilets are prone to backing-up and raw sewerage regularly contaminates the areas that people are not just walking in, but also sleeping in.”
Martin said asylum seekers had reiterated these concerns in recent days and were extremely distressed after hearing that Mr Kehazaei had been declared brain dead.
While the exact details of events remain unclear, it appears the 24-year-old Iranian suffered cardiac arrest as a result of sepsis, a condition that develops after an infection spreads into the blood and through the body.
Griffith University Professor Leanne Aitkin, a sepsis expert, said treatment for the condition is greatly enhanced by a rapid response, within one to six hours, and by attending appropriately to the initial infection before it is able to spread.
“Time is of the essence when it’s a local infection and time is even more of the essence when it’s a systemic infection, so when it’s become Sepsis,” Aitkin said.
While unable to comment specifically on Mr Kehazaei’s case, Aitkin said the rate of survival in Australia would normally be around 80 per cent, a far higher figure than in underdeveloped nations.
The federal government has confirmed that the Department of Immigration’s chief medical officer will conduct a review.
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