Two elderly people from Mpumalanga have died this month after years of battling diabetes, finally succumbing to the illness they believed was “a white person’s disease”.
The pair, who passed on just two weeks apart in different communities, had both refused to take medication or treatment for the condition.
Decisions based on myths
The Mgwenya family now feel their efforts to help were not enough, while the Zitha family is relieved that their grandfather is now free of the pain he was suffering.
In both cases the deceased had declined medical help as they made decisions based on myths and beliefs, choosing traditional muti over western medicine.
In most rural communities in Mpumalanga it is common for people to visit sangomas when they feel sick rather than going to a clinic.
Sinti Mgwenya explained that her mother had been diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago. She did not seek medical treatment and the illness grew progressively worse.
“After one of her legs was amputated she was always complaining, saying she would rather die because she doesn’t want to be a burden to us. She lost her mobility and then she lost hope that she would survive. Things became worse day by day, and she completely refused any treatment.
The right to refuse treatment
“Over the years we tried helping her to accept her condition. But our efforts were not successful. Though she clearly refused treatment we were surprised when she agreed to consult a sangoma. Before her death our mother Dolly Mgwenya was bedridden. Burying our mother has truly left us with questions and regrets that we didn’t do enough to help her.”
Mkhulu Zitha lived in a rural community in deep Nkomazi and spent his entire life trusting traditional medicine. After he was diagnosed with diabetes he refused western medication.
According to his grandson Samson Zitha, the family believe that although they have lost their grandfather they take comfort and feel relief in knowing that he is now at peace and no longer experiencing the pain he was in at the end of his life.
“Regardless of how much encouragement you give to your sick patients, you have to know that you can’t force a person to accept what they don’t want to. They have the right to refuse treatment. The lesson to learn from them is that those who continue to use traditional or unsafe medicines are at risk of dying of their illness,” said Zanele Zwane, a nurse.
Senamile Mhlanga said: “I know our government has done a lot of good work bringing campaigns about HIV/Aids/ARTs and TB, STI and other illness to us. But I personally now feel we need more campaigns about diabetes, especially in deep rural communities.” – Health-e News.
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