Opinions Mon, 5 Sep 2016

Nana Akufo-Addo must sue AfricaWatch and Wellington Hospital

By Kofi Ata

It appears when it comes to party politics in Ghana, there is no decency, morality or privacy as far as one is a candidate.

I am referring to the publication by the AfricaWatch Magazine of the alleged health records of the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo (see, “Full AfricaWatch report: Akufo-Addo has cancer”, Ghanaweb, August 30, 2016).

This article is to urge Nana Akufo-Addo to say “enough is enough” and to take legal action against all those who perpetrated this diabolical act.

Normally, I take such reports on Ghanaian media with a pinch of salt as they usually turn out to be false but when the full pdf report was posted on Peaceonline, the twenty-page report was not only unethical but also breach of client confidentiality, Nana Akufo-Addo’s privacy as well as breach of UK Data Protection Act 1998, if the allegations and details as published were true and Wellington Hospital in London is the hospital in question.

What was shocking were the details of the alleged medical records (the diagnosis on the state of Nana Akufo-Addo’s health and treatment). I could not believe that any decent journalist human being worth their salt would stoop so low to make such health details of a husband, a father and a grandfather public just in the name of party politics.

However, on critical examination of one photo of Nana-Akufo-Addo in what appeared to be theatre or recovery gown, looked suspicious and that raised doubt in my mind that the report could have been fabricated for political expediency. This is because, the socks he was shown to be wearing were in NPP colours.

No hospital would allow such private and foreign material into such as sensitive area, unless it was not a sensitive area. But even if the photo was real, why would AfricaWatch publish such photo when one is most vulnerable and needs all the support and prayers?

In any case, even if Nana Akufo-Addo has prostate cancer and his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) count is over 80 nanograms per millimetre (ng/mL), that is not an indication of imminent death or his inability to perform the functions of the office of the president because these days, with advancement in treatment, prostate cancer patients with over 100 ng/mL PSA reading can survive and live healthy and fulfilling life after diagnosis and treatment.

Some have argued wrongly that it is in the public interest for Ghanaians to know the facts about the state of Nana Akufo-Addo’s health before the December 7, 2016 presidential election. I disagree because the details published by AfricaWatch could not be justified in the name of public interest.

I agree that the electorate has the right to know that presidential candidates are in good health, of sound mind and capable of carrying out the duties of the office they are contesting for, if elected but Ghanaians have no right to know the specific details of the prognosis and the treatment as published by AfricaWatch.

That was a breach of Nana Akufo-Addo’s right to privacy and should be condemned by all decent and right thinking people.

I do not think that as in previous allegations Nana Akufo-Addo should ignore the serious invasion of his privacy and must therefore take action to stop any further breach of his right to keep the details of his health and treatment private and be ridiculed in the name of party politics. He could do so by lodging complaint with the UK Information Commissioner for breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 by AfricaWatch Magazine and the Wellington Hospital in London.

This could be done online from Accra. In fact, I contacted the parent company of Wellington Hospital (HCA Healthcare UK) on September 3, 2016 and emailed a copy the AfricaWatch report to the Corporate and Brand Director, Andrew Mildren. I also plan to raise the matter with the Office of the Information Commissioner in the UK in due course.

The Corporate and Brand Director of HCA Healthcare UK sent me a brief e-mail in response to my enquiry as follows:

“As you quite rightly point out, hospitals have very strict guidelines regarding patient medical records and I’ve included our statement below on this matter.

This is also how any member of The Wellington Hospital’s medical team would respond if asked for information about an individual patient. For reasons of patient privacy and confidentiality, The Wellington Hospital does not disclose details of individuals who may or may not have been treated at our facilities”.

We note that in the AfricaWatch article there is no photograph or evidence that the alleged details are genuine.”

When it comes to our health, we should remember that no one is infallible and when one is unwell, s/he deserves or sympathy and prayers for a speedy recovery but not public ridicule as Nana Akufo-Addo has been subjected to. Shame unto those who violated him and may the Almighty Lord forgive them and grant Nana Akufo-Addo long life with sustainable and resilient good health.

Sometimes, I wonder if as Ghanaians we hate each other or we are just cruel and barbaric. I do remember that a Canadian woman of Ghanaian origin came to Ghana to seek traditional treatment for mental health problem. She was arrested by a pastor, falsely accused of being a witch, shaved and stripped naked in public.

What sort of society that we humiliate and shame the sick, weak and vulnerable but glorify fake pastors, corrupt politicians, judges, civil servants, etc.

Is that what being Ghanaian is about, that we often show the animal in us and forget our humanity? Who will illness or death spare? At east, Nana Akufo-Addo is in his 70s, what about those the perpetrators of this despicable act?
Columnist: Ata, Kofi