As we were winding down the weekend, news of the demise of the renowned city lawyer Mr. Bob Kasango at Murchison Bay Prison in Luzira made headlines of all news stations and tabloids. He had been remanded on grounds of theft of pensioners’ money and fraud during the process. The circumstances surrounding his death as broadcasted in the media were that he had developed heart complications while in incarceration which condition needed to be referred for more specialized attention and this was in the process before he died. He had applied to court through his lawyers to be granted permission to get access to more specialized medical attention, which request was denied by court. This permission is granted at courts discretion and even if bail is granted, court has the right to revoke it. It was revoked and he was convicted.
Incarceration is no reason to deprive an individual of their right to health by denying them access to more specialized medical attention that would in the end lead to a deprivation of the right to life which rights are all provided for and upheld by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
Objective XIV(b) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy states that all Ugandans enjoy rights and opportunities and access to education, health services, clean and safe water, work, decent shelter, adequate clothing, food security, pension and retirement benefits. Our emphasis is on the health services for all Ugandans under the law whether free or in incarceration under law.
With the strides that have so far been made as a nation, we still have an uphill task to ensure the realization of this right for the benefit of all and leave no room for marginalization of any people or groups of people. Fundamental rights like the right to life and health need to be handled in a more holistic manner encouraging equality in the process of access to health service without any limitations whether free or in bondage.
In conclusion, denying an inmate access to more specialized medical attention when in a clearly critical condition is an outright denial of their right to health and ultimately their right to life and it amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment for them to struggle with ill health even in the face of advice from medical specialists and proof easily presented to court. I believe that just as referrals are done in the general hospitals when there is need for more specialized attention for a patient, the process of referring a patient from the prison’s hospital to a more specialized hospital needs to be made more flexible and much easier to access, to be able to save lives and even uphold the right to health even when their personal freedoms are limited.