Egyptian national Eman Abd El Aty, former world’s heaviest woman, passed away at a hospital in Abu Dhabi on Monday, September 25, shortly following her 37th birthday on September 9. Before her time at the Abu Dhabi hospital in the United Arab Emirates, Abd El Aty – an Egyptian national – had undergone extensive weight loss surgery at a private hospital in Mumbai, in one of India’s highest-profile cases of medical tourism.
Specialist equipment such as cranes and a specially fitted transport plane were required to transport Abd El Aty from Egypt to Mumbai. The transport costs alone were estimated to have been $125,000 USD.
Abd El Aty was initially denied a visa for travel to India for medical purposes. However, her doctor, Muffazal Lakdawala, directly tweeted India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, regarding the situation. The foreign minister then intervened and granted the necessary visa to travel to India for potentially life saving bariatric surgery.
Before surgery could take place, Abd El Aty was required to lose considerable amounts of weight due to fatty tissue limiting access to internal organs. This weight loss involved a strict 1200 calorie a day liquid diet. The surgery was a success, with her final weight claimed by Indian doctors to be under 200 kg. This was a considerable reduction, with her initial weight being over 500kg. Abd El Aty spent time in the Mumbai hospital during her recovery period, though was later released from the hospital.
The release from the hospital and subsequent transfer to the Abu Dhabi hospital resulted from controversy surrounding the family of Abd El Aty. Her sister had publicly denounced the hospital in the local media, claiming that Abd El Aty was being mistreated and that doctors had lied about her weight loss. This accusation later spilled out onto social media, resulting in a highly public tirade from the sister on twitter.
Many of the doctors working as part of Abd El Aty’s care team resigned as a result, including Dr. Aparna Govil Bhaskar, the chief bariatric surgeon. Many of these doctors and healthcare workers had been working long hours, providing round the clock care, and took great offence at what they deemed a personal attack on their professional capabilities. It was following this that the hospital transfer took place.
The surgery was no guarantee of a remedy to Eman’s many medical conditions. Her heart condition and kidney diseases were listed as the cause of death, though she was afflicted with many other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and sleep deprivation. Many of these were caused by her weight. Others, such as elephantiasis which she had been diagnosed with as a child may have been causative factors in the weight gain to begin with.
In a statement shortly released upon her passing away, staff at the Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi said: “Eman Abd El Aty… had been under the supervision of a medical team of over 20 doctors from different specialities who were managing her medical condition from the time she arrived in the UAE. Our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to her family.”