Pioneering lap band surgery on the world’s heaviest woman in Mumbai has turned nasty. The operation was a success but most of the doctors treating the woman have resigned after her family accused them of lying about her weight loss and ignoring a possible stroke.
Eman Ahmed’s family say the 36-year-old, from Alexandria in Egypt, was born weighing 5kg (11lbs) and has lymphedema, a condition that causes body tissue to swell. She had a stroke aged 11 and has been unable to leave the house in 25 years.
In February, weighing about 500kg, she was flown to Mumbai for treatment by one of India’s leading bariatric surgeons, Muffazal Lakdawala.
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Unable to attend at the Indian embassy in Cairo, Ahmed was initially denied a visa, but later granted one after Lakdawala appealed to India’s external affairs minister on Twitter.
Ahmed underwent treatment, including bariatric surgery, in February and March, but the relationship between her family and doctors soured this month, after Lakdawala while accepting a medical prize claimed the woman had lost more than 240kg.
This angered her sister, Shaimaa Selim, who posted a video on Facebook saying the doctors had lied about the extent of her weight loss and claiming Ahmed had been destroyed by the treatment.
Since [the surgery] she is not able to talk, she is connected to this feeding tube … she is not able to move, she looks bluish, no improvement,” she said. The medical team care about show and propaganda only, and to appear on mass media, she added.
Ahmed’s doctors responded on social media, posting pictures of scales showing she now weighed about 170kg. They also said results of a CT scan had shown no evidence the woman had suffered another stroke.
On Tuesday, her entire medical team, except for Lakdawala, resigned, saying they were hurt by the allegations.
What has happened is very sad, said Aparna Bhasker, the chief bariatric surgeon at the Saifee hospital where Ahmed is being treated. We are deeply hurt. This is the worst form of assault a doctor can face. An assault doesn’t always have to be physical. By resigning from the team, I am protesting against this form of assault, she said.
Doctors said Ahmed would continue to receive treatment but the mass resignations were symbolic.
Bhaskar said Ahmed’s relatives were upset their daughter was scheduled to be discharged soon and returned to Alexandria. They want to keep her here, she told India Today. We could have helped her, but this is not the way to go about it, she said.
India is a popular destination for surgery. The price of bariatric treatment is reportedly about half the cost of undergoing the same procedure in the US.
Medical tourism to India is valued at about US$3bn (£2.3bn) each year, though estimates vary. A 2015 report from the consultancy Grant Thornton forecast the market could rise to US$8bn by 2020.