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Muslim-American doctor wipes away $650,000 in medical bills for low-income cancer patients Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Muslim-American doctor wipes away $650,000 in medical bills for low-income cancer patients

The doctor forgave over half a million dollars of debt [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2021

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A doctor in America has impressed many with his humanitarianism after he forgave hundreds of thousands in medical debt.

A doctor in the US state of Arkansas has warmed hearts across the world after clearing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills from some 200 patients.

Oncologist Omar Atiq forgave nearly $650,000 after he discovered that many of the patients could not afford to pay at his now-closed Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff.

In a letter to some 200 former patients, Atiq told them that his clinic, which he had run for over 30 years, had "decided to forego all balances owned to the clinic by its patients". 

The doctor told Good Morning America that he had initially sought out a billing company to help chase outstanding payments after he closed his clinic in March, but soon realised many were "unable to pay".

Medical costs in the US are some of the highest in the world, and though patients may have some form of insurance, many still have to pay high out-of-pocket costs.

"Since I started practising," Omar said, "I’ve always been rather uncomfortable with sick patients not only having to worry about their own health and quality of life and their longevity and their families and their jobs but also money," he told ABC News.

"You add to it the absolute devastation that the coronavirus] pandemic has wrought, and you think, ‘Thanks God’ that we’re fairly comfortable and this was something we could at least do to help the community," added Atiq, who is also a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

"I saw patients over the years who just didn’t have anything or who went bankrupt trying to pay for their treatment. In many ways it seems like a totally unfair situation," he said. "I just hope that it made it a little bit easier for them. That’s it."

Atiq expressed his hope that the gesture would give his former patients "a little sigh of relief" and "made it easier for them so they could face other challenges they may be facing in their lives."

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