Egypt’s prosecutor general has opened an investigation into allegations that medical malpractice played a part in the death of veteran journalist Wael El Ebrashy.
The journalist's widow, Sahaar El Ebrashy, on Thursday filed a petition with the country’s top prosecutors and its medical association, accusing one of her husband’s doctors of malpractice that led his condition to worsen over the course of his months-long treatment.
El Ebrashy died last Saturday aged 58, due to complications caused by Covid-19, which he had diagnosed in late 2020.
In her petition, Ms El Ebrashy accuses Dr Sherif Abbas, a prominent hepatologist and gastroenterologist, of administering an unlisted experimental drug to her ailing husband, all the while making claims that he had invented the treatment and it would cure the illness in a week.
“A medical mistake on the part of his home isolation doctor is what caused his condition to worsen to such a degree,” Ms El Ebrashy tearfully told a local television station on the sidelines of her husband’s funeral, “It was also why it took them so long to treat him.”
Throughout the week following El Ebrashy’s death, his widow spoke to local media urging people not to blindly trust their doctors.
Her statements were met with a heated response from the doctors' association, which said on Tuesday: “While we empathise with the sadness and pain of loss that has swept the late journalist’s family, the syndicate denounces and completely rejects having its doctors attacked as a means for someone to vent out their emotions.”
However, on Saturday, Dr Abbas phoned into a popular talk show and admitted that he had given El Ebrashy a drug called Sofosbuvir. The drug is sold under the brand name Sovaldi and used to treat hepatitis C, he said.
Saying that he never gave El Ebrashy any experimental or unlisted medications, Dr Abbas told talk show host Amr Adib on Saturday that Sovaldi was also administered to five million Egyptians. It has no side effects and is generally safe, he said.
The doctor said that, while he knew the drug was outside the health ministry’s protocol for Covid-19, he had read an international study which proved its efficacy in treating a wide range of viral infections.
The Egyptian Medical Syndicate said on Friday that it was open to receiving any petitions or complaints regarding El Ebrashy’s case, and urged prosecutors to carry out their investigations, adding that Dr Abbas was ready to defend himself.
Meanwhile, El Ebrashy’s widow’s claims were supported last week by another of his doctors, who posted the journalist’s test results on Facebook, saying that they conclusively determined that the use of Dr Abbas’s treatment exacerbated his lung condition and worsened his pulmonary fibrosis which was officially ruled the cause of death by the authorities.
El Ebrashy's widow also alleged in her petition that Dr Abbas smoked heavily while treating the sick journalist in his bedroom.
El Ebrashy was admitted to hospital in late 2020 with Covid-19, where he remained until March 2021. He was released to home care for months until his death on January 9.
While he was receiving treatment at home, the talk show host said his health was improving, though he remained off the air for months. His widow later revealed that his condition had been steadily worsening since his return from the ICU in March 2021, which is also when he began being treated by Dr Abbas, she said.
El Ebrashy was buried in his home town of Sherbeen, in Egypt’s Daqahliyah province.