Thursday, March 17, 2011

a dead giveaway





amazingly enough, no matter how crazy our country gets we are a darn sight better than many of our neighbours. many people from countries around us flee to south africa for a better life. only problem is for the better life you sometimes have to produce a south african identity document. these can be easily bought from corrupt government officials, but why buy one if you can borrow one.

i was working in qwaqwa. it was an amazingly poverty-stricken place with what seemed to me to be almost total joblessness. i truly don't know how the people survived. an yet people from neighbouring lesotho would still move there illegally. i've never been to lesotho personally but if qwaqwa was a better proposition, then i can't even imagine how bad life in lesotho must have been.

anyway, one day i got to work and was confronted with a sticky problem. the police were there and they apparently needed my help. you see as it turns out, a lesotho illegal had died a week before in our hospital. in order to qualify for admission to our hospital she needed to be south african. luckily her sister was the proud owner of a south african identity document and had simply lent it to her, along with her name. i assume they looked similar enough that the clerk working in admissions hadn't noticed the picture in the book wasn't that of the patient. more likely she simply didn't check. the problem was that the patient had been declared dead by the doctor on call that particular night. or rather the patient's sister and her id had been declared dead. at that stage no one yet knew who the patient was.

however, when the sister attempted to draw money at her local bank a day or two later, she was shocked to find out that her assets had been frozen on account of her being dead. this upset her because even thought she had been declared dead in her absence, aside from a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, she felt quite alive. suddenly it seemed the right thing to do to come clean and admit that she had lent her sister her identity document and therefore her identity.

now the problem that the police at the hospital had was that they needed a fresh death certificate for the person lying in the freezer in the morgue whose identity they now knew. they presented me with the papers to sign. a small difficulty was the papers required me to identify the body as this new dead person. the police were quite willing to forego this technicality and get my signature. however i felt the entire problem had started because of a casual disregard for the finer points of the law. i was simply not willing to sign a document saying i had identified someone as dead if i had not identified said person as being in fact dead. logic may have dictated that someone who had been lying in the morgue freezer for a week, even if they had not been dead when they got there would probably be dead by then, even if they had simply succumbed to boredom, but i felt i needed to look if the forms that i was required to sign stated that i had looked.

and so the sister, the cop and i took a stroll down to the morgue. the sister and the cop went on, a bit too much if you ask me, about the madness of the doctor in insisting on seeing the body. the last time i had been forced to go to the morgue was in the dead of night so actually i was, relatively speaking, in fairly good spirits.

even being in good spirits and even in the light of day a morgue is not a great place to be and identifying the body of someone who had been on ice (along with her sister's identity and bank account) is actually quite difficult. the normal human features seemed withered and pulled back, revealing a sort of grimace, as if she knew what cruel trick she had played on us all. i was not impressed. the form required me to see the body and see the body i had. i left, signed the form and walked away.

later i could see the humour of the whole thing. i also couldn't help thinking only in south africa could such absurdities take place.

15 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Scary thing is, is that it might happen here in the good ol'usa...
did u hear Blue Shield is not going to do a raise hike but, they will be paying out way less in claims...

rlbates said...

Insurance identity fraud happens here. So Like Kalei's BF, I have to agree it could happen here too.

MrIndieDay said...

This blog is absolutely fantastic.

Read Aloud Dad said...

Congratulations on the blog of note!!

Read Aloud Dad

ReadAloudDad.com

Kalei's Best Friend said...

@ribates: my fear is now the quality of doctors... I belong to Facey and needless to say, they deal w/contracting doctors for 5 years.. Problem is, most of the doctors I have had were good, and its a shame places like Facey don't treat their doctors well.. they overwork them, expect them to see 'x' amt. of patients in 'x' amt. of time.. I think u know where I am going w/this and won't use this page as a vent..All I will say, is that I feel for the newbie physician who goes to work for these places... Its the same as putting any newbie into an area where more experienced people won't go...

Mandy said...

Wonderful story thank you!

Ruth said...

The more I read of your stories, the more I realize that people the world over are alike in so many ways! Thank you.

The Broad said...

dead funny story, as they say in Liverpool!

Can you give me a pound ? said...

very scary ! well done on your blog ! can you please visit mine? thanks !

anne said...

The insurance cards get 'shared' (usually) by recent immigrants here too. There is no photo on the cards, but I find myself extremely suspicious of the stated ages of many patients. If this had happened here, I am sure that the body would have gone to forensics for autopsy and identification by DNA.... Your word would probably not have been enough for identity. First we would spend thousands of Euros, many many forms would be filled out (with many official stamps), phone calls would be made and documented, then in the end they would just end up taking the sister's word for it anyway.

@tweatcyn said...

These stories are fascinating. You're a very good writer too.

Christen said...

Congrats on your blog of note status! I live in MP myself, and was so pleased to see a fellow Mpumalangar on here! :)

jeezmom said...

Are you a real doctor?

Bongi said...

Jeezmom, yes.

Usman said...

Nice..!