Bangladesh doctors treating ailing opposition leader and ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia say they fear for her life if she is not allowed to fly abroad for medical care.
Zia, the 76-year-old leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and archrival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Her doctors said she suffered three big internal bleeds in the past two weeks.
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“We don’t have the means and supportive technology… here to control and stop rebleeding,” her chief doctor Fakhruddin Mohammad Siddiqui told reporters on Sunday at her home, flanked by four other doctors on her medical team.
He said there was a 50-percent chance that Zia would suffer another internal bleed in the next week, and a 70-percent chance it would occur in the next six weeks.
“The chances of controlling the rebleeding are slim,” he said. “In that case, there is higher risk of her death.”
“If we want to save the life of the patient, we need to do TIPS,” he said, referring to a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, a medical procedure he said was available only in medically advanced countries such Germany, the UK, and the US.
Zia has been in the critical care unit of a Dhaka hospital since November 13, just five months after she recovered from COVID-19.
But the leader of the main opposition party has been barred by a court from leaving the country after being convicted on corruption charges in 2018.
As her condition has worsened, BNP activists and supporters have staged protests across the country, demanding she be allowed to travel for treatment.
In the northern district of Natore, about 20 people were injured on November 22 when BNP activists clashed with police.
Hasina earlier this month appeared to reject pleas by Zia’s family and party.
“I have done whatever I can for Khaleda Zia. Now the law will decide the next course of action,” Hasina told a press briefing.
A government minister suggested that the BNP fly in doctors from abroad.
Zia was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February 2018 on corruption charges that the BNP, which was last in power from 2001 to 2006, says were politically motivated.
She was released in March last year as her condition worsened in a jail where she was the only inmate. She has since been barred from flying abroad and has been receiving treatment from a local hospital.
Her doctors and party allege that Zia, who is suffering from heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, was not treated properly when she was imprisoned.