Egypt pays tribute to doctor who dedicated his life to treating the poor
The dying words of an impoverished child spurred Mohammed Abdel-Ghafar El Mashaly to commit his life to medicine
Dr Mohammed Abdel-Ghafar El Mashaly had a simple but heart-wrenching way of explaining why in 1976 he dedicated his life to treating Egypt’s poor.
A diabetic 10-year-old asked his mother for insulin, the doctor recalled during a television interview in May. The mother told her son his siblings would have no supper if she bought him medication, El Mashaly said.
The boy, sensing that his ailment was a burden on his family, decided to burn himself to death that night.
El Mashaly – who passed away on Tuesday, aged 76 – was called to save the child's life, but the boy died in his arms.
“As he was dying, he told me that he did that so his siblings could eat,” he said. “That was the day when I vowed to pledge my life to the treatment of the poor.”
El Mashaly's death triggered an avalanche of tributes on social media, including one from Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the head of the highest seat of Islamic learning in Muslim Egypt.
Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid joined the chorus of tributes, calling El Mashaly a "model for physicians .. and role model for the greats."
El Mashaly lived in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiyah, north of Cairo.
His appearance was unremarkable – “Does a car mechanic go to his shop wearing a business suit?” he once quipped – and he made no secret of why he charged his patients 10 Egyptian pounds (Dh2.3) a visit when other doctors charged as much as 30 or 40 times that.
“I have a rich wife,” he said nonchalantly.
Dr Al Tayeb said El Mashaly “set an example in humanity and he fully realised that we are not in this world indefinitely.
"So, he chose to help poor and needy patients until the last day of his life."
El Mashaly’s death came at a time when Egyptians are filled with gratitude for doctors and other members of the medical profession for their part in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100 doctors out of the thousands infected by the virus since February have died.
In contrast, El Mashaly’s death coincided with the admonishment that private clinics received from the government, the public and MPs for overcharging Covid-19 patients.
Clinics were forced to lower their fees under a pricing system introduced by the government.
Updated: July 29, 2020 10:53 AM