Parliament - Terminally-ill politician Mario Oriani-Ambrosini returned to the National Assembly on Tuesday with a poignant call for a new centre for the treatment of cancer.
Rising to deliver a statement in the House, the gaunt-looking Inkatha Freedom Party MP - who revealed earlier this year that he was stricken with inoperable lung cancer - told members the current “scientific paradigm” on the disease was wrong.
Oriani-Ambrosini took leave from his post earlier this year. In a statement in May, he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer.
“Suddenly, and without significant prior symptoms... I received a diagnosis of stage four lung cancer, which has extensively metastasised throughout my pleura.
“The condition is terminal and not operable, and, if left untreated, will cause me to be removed from all lists for Christmas functions or gifts,” he said at the time.
On Tuesday, as he stood with the aid of a stick to speak, he was greeted with long applause from fellow MPs across the House that twice stopped the start of his statement.
Speaker Max Sisulu told him: “Honourable Member, welcome back; we're delighted to have you back.”
Oriani-Ambrosini said 10 million people died world-wide of cancer each year, and new strategies were needed to deal with the disease.
However, the current legal framework in South Africa allowed only certain treatments to be administered to sufferers.
Further, only those treatments developed for profit by medical conglomerates were permitted, while alternatives were “prohibited from being administered” to patients.
Millions of people were “going through this hell of being a cancer patient, and die and suffer, possibly unnecessarily”, because government was not funding research and expediting approval for treatments where there was no profit to be made.
Oriani-Ambrosini than appealed to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to “establish in this country a centre which can bring together different treatments for cancer”.
Responding, Motsoaledi said he had taken note of the appeal.
“I take note of what you said and will be eagerly waiting to welcome you to the department of health and listening to you attentively.”
In his statement in May this year, Oriani-Ambrosini said he was pursuing a course of treatment “based on different science, not on an alternative to science”.
He had been receiving this treatment for a while.
“At this point, I shall not speak or vouch for such a treatment, nor discredit it. My death or survival will do so,” he said at that time.