It’s perfectly legal for doctors to charge huge amounts for surgery, but should it be allowed?



Desperate families are increasingly turning to crowdfunding campaigns to raise tens of thousands of dollars for surgery and other medical expenses.
From shutterstock.com

Louisa Gordon, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy will investigate how to better protect patients from doctors charging “really unjustifiable, excessive fees” of up to A$10,000 or more for medical procedures.

Murphy said it was potentially unethical for doctors to charge such high out-of-pocket fees that left families in severe financial pain, and that contrary to some patients’ hopes, paying more didn’t equate to better outcomes.

The call comes as desperate families increasingly turn to crowdfunding, remortgaging their homes and eating into their superannuation to raise tens of thousands of dollars for surgeries and other medical expenses.




Read more:
We need more than a website to stop Australians paying exorbitant out-of-pocket health costs


It is perfectly legal for a doctor working in private practice to charge what they believe is fair and reasonable. It’s a private market, so buyers beware.

But that doesn’t mean it’s right, or that it should be allowed to continue.

Not everything is available in the public system

Some patients’ out-of-pocket costs are from the gap between what their private health insurance and/or Medicare will pay for a procedure or treatment.

But some treatments aren’t funded by Medicare or offered in public hospitals because their safety, efficacy and value for money have not yet been demonstrated.

Medical technologies, devices and surgical techniques need to be rigorously tested in clinical trials to demonstrate safety and clinical effectiveness. They will only be widely adopted when they have a strong evidence base.

Out-of-pocket costs can be particularly high for patients with cancer.
From shutterstock.com

When the government pays for a health service, value for money is also considered. For really expensive services and medicines that have the potential to greatly benefit patients, the government will try to negotiate prices down, to reduce the impact on the health budget.

While a lack of evidence of a benefit does not necessarily mean the procedure does not benefit patients, the outcomes need to be reviewed and demonstrated to justify its ongoing use.

Sometimes new technologies are adopted prematurely based on weak evidence and strong marketing which can lead to poor investment decisions. This was the case with robotic surgery for prostate cancer, offered early in private practice in Australia, only to find later it was no better than traditional surgery.

If a patient chooses to spend money on a high-risk surgery, is it really anyone’s business?

Sometimes patients will choose to undergo high-risk surgery, not covered under the public system, and are willing to pay out of their own pocket, or raise the funds through crowdsourcing or remortgaging their home.

Some will argue the value is whatever the patient is willing to pay for it and it’s up to the patient’s own risk-benefit preferences.

There are some major problems with this. Patients often make health decisions while distressed, ill and emotional. They may not be able to determine the best course of action or have all the information at hand. They must trust the doctor and his or her superior knowledge and experience.




Read more:
Specialists are free to set their fees, but there are ways to ensure patients don’t get ripped off


Health economists call this “asymmetric information”. The doctor has extensive years of training, expertise and qualifications. The patient has Dr Google.

A key reason governments intervene in health care systems is to avoid market failure arising from unequal information and the profiteering of providers.

Our ‘fee-for-service’ system is failing

In the private system, doctors are paid a fee for each service they provide. This creates an incentive for doctors to provide more services: the more services they provide, the more they get paid.

But the high volumes of testing, consultations and fragmented services we’re currently seeing aren’t translating to a better quality of care. As such, economists are calling for major reforms of our fee-for-service private health system and the way that doctors are paid.

This could involve paying doctors for caring for a patient’s medical condition over a set period, rather than each time they see the patient, or charging private patients a “bundled fee” for all the scans, appointments and other costs associated with something like a hip replacement.




Read more:
More visits to the doctor doesn’t mean better care – it’s time for a Medicare shake-up


Out-of-pocket costs are very high for some Australians with cancer. A quarter of Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer will pay provider fees of more than A$20,000 in the first two years after diagnosis.

While what constitutes “value” will be in the eye of the beholder, a well-functioning and sustainable health system is one that puts patients’ interests above all others and holds health providers accountable.

Australia’s universal health care system is one of the best in the world and we need to work hard to preserve it. Surgeries costing tens of thousands of dollars will continue unless the government regulates private medical practice or reforms the way doctors are remunerated.

It’s time to cap what physicians can charge for services and provide incentives for specialists to bulk-bill their patients.




Read more:
Why do specialists get paid so much and does something need to be done about it?


The Conversation


Louisa Gordon, Associate Professor – Health Economics, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Doctors may be prescribing antibiotics for longer than needed



File 20190304 110130 13uen4a.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Most recommended courses last between three and seven days.
Shutterstock

Allen Cheng, Monash University

For most infections, the long-standing advice is to take a full course of antibiotics.

The rationale for not simply stopping antibiotics as soon as you start to feel better is that antibiotics don’t kill the bacteria instantly. If stopped too early, the remaining bacteria, which are exposed to low concentrations of antibiotics, tend to be more resistant. These can then re-grow, causing recurrent infection, or spread to other people.

The recommended length of the course depends on the type of infection, the likely cause, and how effective the antibiotics are at killing the bacterium and penetrating to the site of infection.

For infections commonly seen in general practice, most recommended courses last between three and seven days. For more serious infections requiring hospitalisation, the recommendations are generally a little longer.




Read more:
Use them and lose them: finding alternatives to antibiotics to preserve their usefulness


A recent study from the United Kingdom found a substantial proportion of antibiotic prescriptions in general practice were for longer than these recommendations. While for each prescription this may have only been a few days longer, for the UK as a whole this amounted to about 1.3 million days of antibiotics more that would have been necessary.

Researchers are currently investigating how much of a problem this is in Australia.

There’s little evidence to suggest longer courses of antibiotics benefit patients. In fact, even the recommended lengths could be too long for many infections.

Why are courses longer than recommended?

The most important determinant of duration in primary care is probably the size of the pack the antibiotics come in.

But the number of tablets in a pack is rarely the same as the length of a course. One Australian study looked at 32 common prescribing scenarios and found that the pack size only matched the recommended duration of antibiotics in four cases.

Other reasons antibiotics may be prescribed for longer than recommended is when patients are given “repeats” and taking a second course of antibiotics. Often, the doctor isn’t actively prescribing a second course, but their medical prescribing software is printing a “repeat” on their prescription by default.




Read more:
FactCheck: Is Australia’s use of antibiotics in general practice 20% above the OECD average?


In hospitals, clinical uncertainty plays a large role. It is sometimes suggested that antibiotics are used for the benefit of the patient, but at other times to allay the treating doctor’s anxiety.

While the motivation to make sure infections are properly treated is understandable and well-intentioned, particularly in patients who might still be critically unwell for other reasons, continuing antibiotics for too long increases the risk of side effects and antibiotic resistance.

Do we even need a full course?

We may be able to stop antibiotics before we reach the end of our course. The body has the capacity of “mop up” small numbers of bacteria, so at least for milder infections, it may not be necessary to kill them all.

This is important because using antibiotics for too long can be a problem in causing antibiotic resistance. This can occur within individual patients by exposing bacteria elsewhere in the body to antibiotics, but also because antibiotics are eliminated from the body and can contaminate the environment.

We didn’t always standardise the duration of antibiotics. Harry Dowling, one of the pioneers of early antibiotic use, once said

The duration of treatment just evolved. There was no rationale for any single length of time. We saw how long it took for the temperature to come down and gave antibiotics until it did, and then some.

The durations recommended in guidelines often come from arbitrary decisions made in early studies, which have translated into some odd “rules” about antibiotics:

  • prime numbers for durations of up to a week (three, five or seven days)
  • even numbers for more serious infections that take weeks to eradicate (two, four or six weeks)
  • multiples of three for really tenacious infections such as bone infections (three months) or TB (six months).

In writing guidelines for doctors, we often wrestle with whether to set a fixed duration (such as seven days), a range (five to ten days), a minimum (at least five days), a maximum (up to ten days) or wordy qualifications (usually five days, or ten days for severe illness or where there is a slow response).




Read more:
We know _why_ bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, but _how_ does this actually happen?


What about serious infections?

For deep or severe infections, we want to be sure the infection won’t return. Recent research has focused on defining the shortest effective duration of treatments.

A recent trial compared whether seven days or 14 days of antibiotics were required for some types of bloodstream infection, and found outcomes to be similar.

Researchers have also been testing the use of oral antibiotics for two of the most difficult infections to treat – endocarditis (infection of the heart valves) and ostemyelitis (infection of bone) – which have needed intravenous antibiotics for six weeks or longer. These trials have shown a shorter course of intravenous antibiotics with an early switch to oral antibiotics may be adequate.

Shortening the duration of antibiotics is one important way to reduce antibiotic use, the key driver of antibiotic resistance.




Read more:
Health Check: should kids be given antibiotics in their first year?


The Conversation


Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How can Australia have too many doctors, but still not meet patient needs?



File 20170602 25664 qdxhuc
If you live in a rural area, you would never think Australia had too many doctors.
from shutterstock.com

Richard Murray, James Cook University and Andrew Wilson, University of Sydney

The statement “we have plenty of doctors in Australia” would probably not pass the pub test. Especially if the pub was in a regional city, a remote town or a less-than-leafy suburb. But it is true all the same – statistically at least.

With 3.5 practising doctors for every 1,000 people in 2014 (4.4 per 1,000 in major cities) we’ve never had so many. In 2003, there were 2.6 doctors for every 1,000 people in Australia, which is closer to the proportion in similar countries now, such as New Zealand (2.8), the UK (2.8), Canada (2.6) and the USA (2.6).

Yet at 2.6 per 1,000 was when we decided we were “short” and went on to double the number of medical schools and almost triple the number of medical graduates in a little over a decade.

And then there’s this question: if we are now so flush with medicos, why do we still need to import so many from overseas? To fill job vacancies, the Australian government granted 2,820 temporary work visas to overseas-trained doctors in 2014-15. In the same year, Australian medical schools graduated another 3,547.

This heroic level of doctor production and importation is right up there internationally. Among wealthy nations, Australia is vying for the top spot, with only Denmark and Ireland in the same league of doctor-production for population.

So why do we have too many doctors, but think we have too few?

Our approach to medical training

In a Medical Journal of Australia editorial published today, we examine the question of “work readiness” in our new medical graduates from arguably the most important perspective: what the community needs from future doctors.

To what extent is our medical training system producing doctors who will be providing the high quality, person centred, affordable health services we need, given we are an ageing population living with higher levels of chronic and complex health conditions?

There have been arguably three problems with the Australian approach to the medical workforce to date. First, we didn’t finish the job of production; second, we’ve allowed too much medical specialisation in major cities; and third, our models of health care and the ways we pay for it are out of step with where community needs are heading.

1. Production

Back in the early 2000s, the biggest issue relating to the training of Australia’s medical workforce was a shortage of doctors in regional and remote areas. So, in addition to boosting medical student numbers overall, we set up rural clinical schools and regional medical schools, and increased admission of students who were already residents of rural areas.

While results of these policies have been positive in terms of graduate rural career intentions and rural destinations, the job was really only half done. What we didn’t do is reform the training that goes on after medical school.

That involves internships and training for one of 64 specialty fellowships, including general practice. Because of that, too many of our medical graduates are now piling up in capital city teaching hospitals, locked in a fierce competition for ever-more sub-specialised training jobs.

Meanwhile regional Australia remains hooked on a temporary fix of importing doctors from overseas. Hence the recently announced funding for 26 new regional training hubs. The aim is to “flip” the medical training model, so the main training is offered regionally with a city rotation as required.

2. Excessive specialisation

There’s no question we need a reasonable number of doctors who are experts in a narrow field. However, there’s now an imbalance between an inadequate number of medical generalists and excessive numbers of specialists in every major medical field.

Regional Australia in particular needs more generalists; that is rural generalist GPs, general surgeons, general physicians and the like.

3. Financing and models of care

Health expenditure is driven by three main factors: growth in population, providing more care for each patient and the increase in the proportion of older people with increased complex care needs.

Improvements in health-care technology means we can diagnose illness more accurately, less invasively and earlier, and we have more effective treatments.

However, in a system that pays on the basis of every service provided (regardless of need) there is also a risk of provider-induced demand. This can lead to inappropriate medical care, with examples in unwarranted eye, knee and back surgery, imaging, colonoscopy, and medication for depression and other conditions.

An undersupply of doctors is associated with lower rates of health-care use, whereas oversupply or mis-distribution can lead to higher rates of inappropriate care. Balancing the distribution of doctors according to need has important consequences for health-care costs.

Time for action

Make no mistake, Australia’s current health system is good by world standards. But the headwinds are building. The population is ageing, we’ve got more people with chronic and complex health-care needs, and the costs of new medicines and technologies continue to escalate.

Having injected a massive boost of doctors into a fee-paying healthcare system without regard to population need, workforce mix, geographic location, health-care models or financing reform, we have put the future at risk.

Let’s not let this bold experiment fail for want of follow-through. We need more urgency in providing the incentives and training opportunities to get our growing junior medical workforce into the specialties and areas that are underserved.

We have to stop allowing medical specialty training to be driven by the work rostering requirements of metropolitan hospitals. We must increase the number of specialist training positions based in regional centres.

The ConversationAnd we especially need to expand the number of broadly-skilled rural generalists and get serious about efficient, team based, health-care models. This requires cooperation by all governments, medical schools, specialist colleges and the profession – and the time to act is now.

Richard Murray, Dean of Medicine & Dentistry, James Cook University and Andrew Wilson, Co-Director, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Latest Persecution News – 12 March 2012


Doctors Try to Save Remaining Eye of Ugandan Pastor

The following article reports on the recovery of a Ugandan pastor from an acid attack by Islamic extremists.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/uganda/article_1422178.html

 

India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution

The following article provides a ’round up’ of persecution incidents in recent times in India.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/india/article_1424992.html

 

Christian Woman in Pakistan Freed after ‘Blasphemy’ Accusation

The following article reports on the release of a Christian woman falsely accused of desecrating the Quran in Pakistan.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/pakistan/article_1427582.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Pakistani Christian Sentenced for ‘Blasphemy’ Dies in Prison


Murder suspected in case of Christian imprisoned for life.

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 15 (CDN) — A Christian serving a life sentence in Karachi Central Jail on accusations that he had sent text messages blaspheming the prophet of Islam died today amid suspicions that he was murdered.

Qamar David’s life had been threatened since he and a Muslim, Munawar Ahmad, were accused of sending derogatory text messages about Muhammad in June 2006, said David’s former lawyer, Pervaiz Chaudhry (See “Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Laws Claim Three More Christians,” March 10, 2010).

David was convicted under Section 295-C under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws for derogatory remarks against Muhammad in a case registered at Karachi’s Azizabad Police Station, with another case registered at Saddar Police Station pending. Maximum punishment for Section 295-C is death, though life imprisonment is also possible. On Feb. 25, 2010 he received a sentence of life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years, and was fined 100,000 rupees (US$1,170).

Chaudhry, who said he was David’s counsel until Islamic threats against his life forced him to stop in July 2010, told Compass that the Christian had expressed fears for his life several times during the trial.

“David did not die of a heart attack as the jail officials are claiming,” Chaudhry said. “He was being threatened ever since the trial began, and he had also submitted a written application with the jail authorities for provision of security, but no step was taken in this regard.”

Conflicting versions of his death by jail officials also raised doubts.

A jail warden said David was reported crying for help from his cell today in the early hours of the morning. He said that David, who was breathing at the time, was transported to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), but that doctors there pronounced him dead on arrival.

He also said, however, that he had heard from colleagues that David was found dead inside his cell and that his body had been sent to the hospital for post-mortem, not for treatment. Investigations are underway, he added.

Karachi Central Prison Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz said David was shifted to CHK for treatment after jail staff members found him crying for help with “one hand on the left side of his chest.” He said the prisoner was first taken to a local healthcare center, but that doctors there suggested that he should be taken to a hospital for proper treatment.

Mumtaz said that David was shifted to the hospital at around 10:45 a.m. today and was alive when he reached the hospital.

Sindh Inspector General of Prisons Ghulam Qadir Thebo insisted to BBC that David died of natural causes, saying he was housed in a Christian-only wing in which no Muslim prisoners had access to him.

“Our investigations have not yielded any evidence of foul play,” Thebo told BBC. “There is no evidence to suggest he was murdered.”

David’s family reached Karachi today to take custody of the body. An impartial probe and autopsy report is awaited, as no jail officials were ready to say on record whether they had seen any visible injury on David’s body.

David’s son, Aqeel David, told Compass that the family had been informed only that his father had suffered a heart attack and died while he was being taken to the hospital.

“We don’t know anything besides this little piece of information that was given to us on the telephone,” he said. “We are unsure about the circumstances surrounding my father’s death because of the serious nature of the cases against him.”

David’s former attorney said that the trial in which David was convicted and sentenced was a sham.

“The judge acquitted Ahmad in this case, even though all 11 witnesses clearly pointed out his direct involvement in the incident,” Chaudhry said.

In regard to the other blasphemy case registered at the Saddar Police Station, Chaudhry said he had cross-examined witnesses who had again accused Ahmad of mischief and absolved David of any wrongdoing.

“Ahmad’s lawyer had filed an application for re-examining the witnesses when I withdrew from the case,” Chaudhry added. “I stopped pursuing his cases last year because of serious threats to my life by Islamist groups who used to gather outside the courtroom.”

Chaudhry said threats were made “both inside and outside the courtroom.”

During the cross-examining of witnesses, he said, Senior Superintendent of Police Muhammad Afzal had also admitted that Ahmad was the real culprit and that David was arrested on the information of “some sources.” Chaudhry said there was no relation whatsoever between Ahmad and his client before the trial started.

“They were complete strangers,” Chaudhry said. “David was definitely framed in these cases.”

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org

Pakistani Muslims Beat Elderly Christian Couple Unconscious


80-year-old’s bones broken after he refused prostitute that four men offered.

SARGODHA, Pakistan, October 21 (CDN) — An 80-year-old Christian in southern Punjab Province said Muslims beat him and his 75-year-old wife, breaking his arms and legs and her skull, because he refused a prostitute they had offered him.

From his hospital bed in Vehari, Emmanuel Masih told Compass by telephone that two powerful Muslim land owners in the area, brothers Muhammad Malik Jutt and Muhammad Khaliq Jutt, accompanied by two other unidentified men, brought a prostitute to his house on Oct. 8. Targeting him as a Christian on the premise that he would not have the social status to fight back legally, the men ordered him to have sex with the woman at his residence in village 489-EB, he said.

“I turned down the order of the Muslim land owners, which provoked the ire of those four Muslim men,” Masih said in a frail voice. District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Vehari officials confirmed that he suffered broken hip, arm and leg bones in the subsequent attack.

His wife, Inayatan Bibi, said she was cleaning the courtyard of her home when she heard the four furious men brutally striking Masih in her house.

“I tried to intervene to stop them and pleaded for mercy, and they also thrashed me with clubs and small pieces of iron rods,” she said by telephone.

The couple was initially rushed to Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Burewala in critical condition, but doctors there turned them away at the behest of the Jutt brothers, according to the couple’s attorney, Rani Berkat. Burewala hospital officials confirmed the denial of medical care.

Taken to the hospital in Vehari, Inayatan Bibi was treated for a fractured skull. The beatings had left both her and her husband unconscious.

Berkat said the Muslim assailants initially intimidated Fateh Shah police into refraining from filing charges against them. After intervention by Berkat and Albert Patras, director of human rights group Social Environment Protection, police reluctantly registered a case against the Jutt brothers and two unidentified accomplices for attempted murder and “assisting to devise a crime.” The First Information Report (FIR) number is 281/10.

Station House Officer Mirza Muhammad Jamil of the Fateh Shah police station declined to speak with Compass about the case. Berkat said Jamil told her that the suspects would be apprehended and that justice would be served.

Berkat added, however, that police appeared to be taking little action on the case, and that therefore she had filed an application in the Vehari District and Sessions Court for a judge to direct Fateh Shah police to add charges of ransacking to the FIR.

Doctors at DHQ Vehari said the couple’s lives were no longer in danger, but that they would be kept under observation.

Report from Compass Direct News

Muslims Force Expat Christian Teacher to Flee Maldives


Mistaking compass she drew for a cross, parents of students threatened to expel her.

NEW DELHI, October 5 (CDN) — Authorities in the Maldives last week had to transport a Christian teacher from India off one of the Islamic nation’s islands after Muslim parents of her students threatened to expel her for “preaching Christianity.”

On Wednesday night (Sept. 29) a group of angry Muslim parents stormed the government school on the island of Foakaindhoo, in Shaviyani Atoll, accusing Geethamma George of drawing a cross in her class, a source at Foakaindhoo School told Compass.

“There were only 10 teachers to defend Geethamma George when a huge crowd gathered outside the school,” the source said by telephone. “Numerous local residents of the island also joined the parents’ protest.”

The school administration promptly sought the help of officials from the education ministry.

“Fearing that the teacher would be physically attacked, the officials took her out of the island right away,” the source said. “She will never be able to come back to the island, and nor is she willing to do so. She will be given a job in another island.”

A few days earlier, George, a social studies teacher, had drawn a compass to teach directions to Class VI students. But the students, who knew little English, mistook the drawing to be a cross and thought she was trying to preach Christianity, the source said. The students complained to their parents, who in turn issued a warning to the school.

Administrators at the school set up a committee to investigate the allegation and called for a meeting with parents on Thursday (Sept. 30) to present their findings. The committee found that George had drawn a compass as part of a geography lesson.

“However, the parents arrived the previous night to settle the matter outside the school,” said the source.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, authorities transferred George to the nearby island of Funadhoo “after the parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island.”

The teacher, who worked at the school for three years, is originally from the south Indian coastal state of Kerala. Many Christians from Kerala and neighboring Tamil Nadu state in India are working as teachers and doctors in the Maldives.

Preaching or practicing a non-Muslim faith is forbidden under Maldivian law, which does not recognize any faith other than Islam. The more than 300,000 citizens of the Maldives are all Sunni Muslims.

A string of 1,190 islands in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka in South Asia, the Maldives is the only country after Saudi Arabia that claims to have a 100 percent Muslim population. As per its constitution, only a Muslim can be a citizen of the country. Importing any literature that contradicts Islam is against the law.

Many of the more than 70,000 expatriate workers in the Maldives are Christian, but they are allowed to practice their faith only inside their respective homes. They cannot even get together for prayer or worship in each other’s houses – doing so has resulted in the arrest and deportation of expatriates in the past.

The Maldives was ruled by an authoritarian, conservative Muslim president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for 30 years. The nation became a multi-party democracy in 2008 with Mohamed Nasheed – from the largely liberal Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – as the new president.

Gayoom’s right-wing party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), however, managed to win a simple majority in the People’s Majlis – as the parliament is known in the Maldives – in the 2009 parliamentary election. The Maldives follows the presidential system.

The DRP-led opposition often criticizes Nasheed’s government, accusing it of being liberal in cultural and religious matters, which DRP leaders claim will have a bearing on the country’s sovereignty and identity.

A key ally of the MDP, the Adhaalath Party, also holds conservative views on religion and culture.

Many in Maldivian society, along with religious and political leaders, believe religious freedom is not healthy for the nation’s survival, although the Maldives does not perceive any threat from nearby countries.

Report from Compass Direct News

Muslim Mob Attacks Christians in Gujrat, Pakistan


Dozens beaten, shot at, left for dead since Sept. 8.

SARGODHA, Pakistan, September 27 (CDN) — A mob of Muslim extremists on Thursday (Sept. 23) shot at and beat dozens of Christians, including one cleared of “blasphemy” charges, in Punjab Province’s Gujrat district, Christian leaders said.

The attack on Tariq Gill, exonerated of charges of blaspheming the Quran on Sept. 3, 2009, and on his father Murad Gill, his mother and the other Christian residents was the latest of more than 10 such assaults on the Christian colony of Mohalla Kalupura, Gujrat city, since Sept. 8, the Rev. Suleman Nasri Khan and Bishop Shamas Pervaiz told Compass.

About 40 Islamists – some shooting Kalashnikovs and pistols at homes and individuals on the street, others brandishing axes and clubs – beat some of the Christians so badly that they left them for dead, Pastor Khan said. So far, 10 families have been targeted for the attacks.

On Thursday (Sept. 23) the assailants ripped the clothing off of Gill’s mother and dragged her nude through the streets, Pastor Khan said.

Among the Christians attacked on Thursday (Sept. 23) were Rashid Masih and his family, he said. The critically injured Masih and his family members, Gill and his parents, and the other injured Christians were initially rushed to Aziz Bhatti hospital in Gujrat, Pastor Khan said, and then transferred to Abdullah Hospital in nearby Lalla Musa to receive more advanced care.

“The injured Christians were under the observation of able doctors at Abdullah Hospital in Lalla Musa,” Pastor Khan told Compass by telephone.

Bishop Pervaiz, central vice chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith Peace Council, said the mob was led by two members of the National Assembly, Meer Anjum and Farasat Dar, at the behest of a powerful member of the Punjab Assembly named Sheikh Islam. The three Muslim politicians were not immediately available for comment, but the Gujrat superintendent of police investigations, identified only as Hafeez, told Christian leaders they were respectable legislators who were innocent.

Also asserting that the three Muslim politicians were behind the violence, Pastor Khan said the assailants have vowed to mount an attack on Mohalla Kalupura similar to the Islamist assault on Gojra in 2009. On Aug. 1, 2009, an Islamic mob acting on a false rumor of blaspheming the Quran and whipped into frenzy by local imams attacked the Christian colony in Gojra, burning at least seven Christians to death, injuring 19 others, looting more than 100 houses and setting fire to 50 of them. The dead included women and children.

Bishop Pervaiz said the attackers in Gujrat have threatened to kill him, Pastor Khan and Bishop Yashua John and continue to roam the streets of Mohalla Kalupura looking for Christian residents to kill.

The Lorry Adda police station house officer (SHO), inspector Riaz Qaddar, has stated publicly that “no stone would be left unturned” to apprehend the gunmen, but the Christian leaders said he has refused to act.

“The SHO flatly denied indicting the Muslim mob and especially the Muslim legislators,” said Pastor Khan, chairman of Power of God’s Healing Ministry International Pakistan and national coordinator of Jesus’ Victory Gospel Assembly of Pakistan.

Bishop Pervaiz said that besides the Christian accused of blasphemy, the attacks also may have been sparked by the election victory last year of an area Christian – who was slain a few days after taking office. Yaqoob Masih won the Tehsil Municipal Authority Gujrat election by a landslide, and a few days after he took office on Dec. 15, 2009, Muslim candidates running for the same office killed him, Bishop Pervaiz said.

He added that Lorry Adda police did not register a murder case at that time.  

In the blasphemy case, Tariq Gill was falsely charged on Aug. 15, 2009 under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws for desecrating the Quran, but due to the intervention of Christian leaders, influential Muslim elders and police, he was exonerated of all allegations on Sept. 3, 2009, said Bishop Pervaiz, who is also chairman of the Council of Bishops and head of the National Churches in Pakistan.

“Muslim legislators Meer Anjum, Sheikh Islam and Farasat Dar had resentment against Murad Gill’s family over this blasphemy row as well,” said Bishop Pervaiz, “and now through these assaults, which are becoming more frequent and massive, emboldened Muslims have found a way to vent their fury.”

The Christian leaders said they approached District Police Officer Afzaal Kausar about the attacks, and he sent the application for charges to Hafeez, the superintendent of police investigation in Gujrat.

“But he did not bother to watch the video we shot of the attack and shrugged off the matter,” Pastor Khan said.

He said that Hafeez told them that Anjum, Dar and Islam were respectable legislators, “and without any investigation declared them innocent.”

This afternoon Pastor Khan led a protest at the Islamabad National Press Club. He said more than 250 Christian protestors reached Islamabad despite an attempt by Inspector Qaddar of Lorry Adda police station to arrest them before they left the area.

“But the invisible hand of Almighty God helped us, and we safely made it to Islamabad,” Pastor Khan said. “Although the government has clamped a ban on all sorts of processions and demonstrations, we successfully staged the sit-in before National Press Club Islamabad.”

Saying he regretted that the demonstration had drawn little attention, he added that the protestors would remain in front of the building tonight demanding justice. The pastor said tomorrow (Sept. 28) they would protest in front of the Islamabad Parliament House.

Report from Compass Direct News

Alleged Bomber of Christian Boy in Israel to Stand Trial


Hearing could determine whether Jack Teitel is transferred from mental hospital.

ISTANBUL, September 3 (CDN) — An Israeli man accused of planting a homemade bomb that almost killed the son of a Messianic Jewish pastor in Ariel, Israel has been declared competent to stand trial.

Jack Teitel, 37, who in November was indicted on two charges of pre-meditated murder, three charges of attempted murder and numerous weapons charges, is expected to enter a plea on Sunday (Sept. 5).

David and Leah Ortiz, parents of the teenage victim, said that the 10 months since the indictment have been difficult but their stance toward Teitel remains the same; they have forgiven him for the attack but want him to face justice before a judge and seek salvation from God.

If nothing else, they said, they want him incarcerated to keep other Messianic Jews from being attacked either by Teitel or those following his lead.

“He’s dangerous,” Leah Ortiz said. “He’s an extremely dangerous person. He’s totally unrepentant.”

Sunday’s plea will open the way for a trial expected to start within weeks and last for more than six months. Officials at a hearing possibly the same day as the scheduled plea will decide whether Teitel will be moved from the mental hospital where he has been held for most of his detainment.

It is possible Teitel will enter no plea on Sunday. He has publically stated that he doesn’t “recognize the jurisdiction” of Jerusalem District Court.

 

Bombing

On March 20, 2008, Ami Ortiz, then 15, opened a gift basket that someone had left anonymously at his family’s home in Ariel. The basket disappeared in a massive explosion that destroyed much of the Ortiz home and shattered Ami’s body.

When he arrived at the hospital, Ami was clinging to life. He was bleeding profusely, had burns covering much of his body and was full of needles, screws and glass fragments the bomb-maker had built into the device.

The doctors had little hope for him and listed his condition as “anush,” meaning his soul was about to leave his body.

After countless hours of surgery and even more spent in prayer, Ami went from “near dead,” to burned and blind and eventually to playing basketball on a national youth team. Both his parents said his recovery was nothing short of a miracle from God.

 

‘Most Radical Evangelist’

When Teitel was arrested in October 2009, police found him hanging up posters celebrating the shooting of two teenagers at a gay and lesbian community center in Tel Aviv.

Teitel’s background is still somewhat of a mystery. An emigrant from the United States, he became an Israeli citizen in 2000, got married not long afterwards and is the father of four children. Usually portrayed in Israeli media as part ultra-orthodox ideologue and part fringe survivalist, it is clear that Teitel was motivated by a fascination with end-times prophecy and an extremely violent interpretation of Judaism and Jewish nationalism.

He is a self-described follower of such anti-missionary groups as Yad L’Achim. According to authorities, Teitel sought to kill those he deemed enemies of traditional Judaism: Palestinians, homosexuals, liberal Jewish intellectuals and, in the Ortiz case, Messianic Jews.

David Ortiz is well known in Israel, both for his activities in the Jewish community and for his efforts to expose Palestinians to the gospel.

“He said the reason why he wanted to kill me was that I was the most radical in evangelism, so I had to be first,” said Ortiz, who has seen transcripts of Teitel’s confessions.

Along with the Ortiz case, police said Teitel is responsible for the June 1997 shooting death of Samir Bablisi, a Palestinian taxi driver who was found in his cab with a single bullet wound to his head. Two months later, police said, Teitel allegedly shot Isa Jabarin, a Palestinian shepherd who was giving him driving directions to Jerusalem.

Police also said that Teitel attempted to burn down a monastery and unsuccessfully planted several bombs. He also is accused of the September 2008 bombing of Zeev Sternhell of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The bombing left the emeritus history professor slightly wounded.

During one court hearing, Teitel flashed a victory sign and reportedly said, “It was a pleasure and honor to serve my God. God is proud of what I have done. I have no regrets.”

 

Long Road to Trial

David Ortiz said that as bad as the bombing itself was, waiting for the trial has been yet another ordeal.

As officials investigated the bombing, police harassed Messianic Jewish friends of theirs, saying, “If you are Jewish, why did you become a Christian?” Ortiz said.

The Ortiz family had to sue police and pay 5,000 shekels (US$1,320) to obtain a copy of a security camera video belonging to the family that police had seized as evidence. The video shows Teitel laying the basket at the Ortiz home.

“We had to hire a lawyer because we understood clearly that our rights as victims had to be protected,” said David Ortiz.

Particularly galling to the pastor has been the hands-off response of government officials to the attack.

“We are the only family in Israel that has been a victim of an attack that hasn’t been visited by a government official,” he said, adding that officials have made no public condemnation of the attack. “If the leaders do not condemn an act, it emboldens others who want to do the same thing.”

According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2009 issued by the U.S. Department of State, there are 10,000 Messianic Jews in Israel. The report documents several cases of violence against Messianic Jews, including cases where baptismal services have been disrupted, Messianic Jews have been beaten and Christian literature has been torched.

 

God Shows Up

Leah Ortiz said that what Teitel intended for evil, God meant for good in order to reach people.

“The Lord has taken the worst tragedy that could possibly happen and has used it for the greatest good that He possibly could,” she said.

The incident, and how the Ortiz family has dealt with it, has become a lightning rod of sorts in Israel, forcing people to think more seriously about the claims of the Messianic Jews.

In a place filled with the type of hatred that causes people to strap bombs to their bodies to kill others, the attack has given people a reason to think and, for some, to choose forgiveness and peace.

Ortiz said he has gotten calls from Palestinians who had said if he could forgive a man who bombed his child, then they can forgive what has happened to them. Orthodox Jews have called him and asked forgiveness for their hatred toward Messianic Jews. Muslims have called Ortiz offering blood for transfusions for Ami.

Ortiz said he was devastated after the attack, but that he has been blessed to see God working “supernaturally” through the incident. Ami is an example of God’s grace and healing power, Ortiz said, explaining, “Ami has been a wonder within my own eyes. How could anyone who went through so much be so peaceful?”

Ami’s high school friends, most of them not Messianic Jews, have sought him out and asked him about the ordeal.  Ortiz said he thinks God will use him in a big way.

His wife explained, “I have that sense this is about something bigger. This is something bigger than what has happened to us and to our family.”

Report from Compass Direct News

Family Refutes Police Claims in Death of Christian in India


Bible teacher in Rajasthan state, 20, faced opposition from Hindu nationalists.

NEW DELHI, August 25 (CDN) — The family of a 20-year-old Christian found dead last week in the northern state of Rajasthan suspects he was killed by Hindu nationalists, though police claim he died of cardiac arrest.

Narayan Lal, a farmer from Hameerpura Patar village in Arnod sub-district of Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh district, was found dead the evening of Aug. 17 near a forest where he had gone to tend his goats.

Lal was a volunteer teacher in a 10-day Vacation Bible School organized by indigenous Christian organization Light of the World Service Society (Jagat Jyoti Seva Sansthan) in his village area in May, and a relative who requested anonymity told Compass that some villagers did not approve of the young man “spreading Christianity.”

“It seems his throat was strangulated,” the relative said. “I do not know who did it, but I am sure he was murdered. His family was facing opposition for their Christian work, particularly by some residents of Nadikhera village [near Hameerpura Patar].”

A post-mortem report suggested otherwise, police said.

“The body of Narayan Lal, son of Tola Ram Meena, was found under a tree,” Superintendent of Police of Pratapgarh district Prem Prakash Tak told Compass. “There was some froth formation in his mouth, but no injuries or bruises. The post-mortem was conducted by three doctors, and they suggest that he died of cardio-respiratory failure.”

He added that police had not heard that the family suspected murder. The relative said, however, that Lal’s father told police that his son was seemingly killed by some people from Nadikhera village who had been opposing him and his family. Salamgarh Police Inspector Govardhan Ram Chowdhary was unavailable for comment.

Lal’s relative contested the police version, saying Lal was “absolutely healthy” with “no sign of any ailment.”

“I cannot believe that he died of heart failure – he was very young,” he said. “His shoes were lying near his body, and a piece of cloth was kept on his hands. It seemed that the cloth was used to tie his hands.”

The relative asked why police did not inform the family of their autopsy report’s indication of cardiac arrest.

“We would have taken the body to a private hospital for confirmation,” he said.

The death was reported to Salamgarh police at 10 p.m. on Aug. 17 under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code for “death under suspicious circumstances.” The autopsy was performed on Aug. 18, after which the body was handed over to the family for cremation.

Police Superintendent Tak acknowledged that Lal’s father, an elder in the village church, had been arrested in July 2008 on charges of desecrating an idol of a Hindu deity in the village. He was released after police failed to find evidence against him.

“He [Lal’s father] was falsely accused by those who did not like his missionary work,” the deceased’s relative said. “It was a plot to oppose his work.”

Christian persecution is not new to Rajasthan state, where Christian conversion is a sensitive issue.

The Rajasthan government passed an anti-conversion law in the state assembly in April 2006, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power. The bill is still awaiting the governor’s assent.

The BJP led the government of Rajasthan from March 1990 to November 1998, and again from December 2003 to December 2008, when the Left-of-Center Congress Party won the election.

The incidence of Christian persecution is said to have decreased since the BJP’s defeat in the 2008 state election, with the exception of sporadic incidents.

About 30 suspected Hindu extremists assaulted two Christian workers from Gospel for Asia and chased them into the jungle near Rajasthan’s Banswara city on Sept. 4, 2009. (See “Recent Incidents of Persecution,” Sept. 29, 2009.)

On March 21, 2009, Hindu nationalists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) attacked Bible students and staff members of the Believers Church and demanded 10,000 rupees (US$193) from them in Udaipur city. (See “Recent Incidents of Persecution,” March 31, 2009.)

On April 29, 2007, at least 14 Hindu extremists in Jaipur, Rajasthan attacked Pastor Walter Masih with sticks and rods as television cameras recorded the scene, leaving him bleeding profusely. The then-Hindu nationalist government in the state declined to prosecute the more serious charges against the assailants.

BJP leaders harassed leaders of the Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), based in Kota city, in 2006, leading to the arrest of the Christians and the freezing of EMI bank accounts.

Report from Compass Direct News