Akim Zhigankov's Parents Discuss 'Poisoning' Assertion

(Spectrumbot) #1

On February 17, 2015, Akim Zhigankov, a young missionary to the Philippines and the son of professors Oleg Zhigankov and Elena Zhigankova of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, died in De La Salle University Medical Center in Cavite, Philippines. In a lengthy letter to supporters shared publicly on Facebook, Akim's father wrote that his son had been the victim of poisoning, and used the word "murder" to describe his son's death. After I wrote about the incident using Oleg's words (various requests for comment on the specifics of his death brought no further clarity at that time), Akim's family responded, again by means of social media.

Oleg took to Facebook to respond publicly,

Thank you, Spectrum Magazine, for this article. We're also very grateful to all who understand us, and there are many. Yet, as we've been reading some comments, certain things become clear. First, many people don't believe the Great Controversy is really real - well, other than some mega-spiritual entity at the level of ideas, church politics and vague temptations. Second, there is an obvious tendency to rely on modern 'scientific' view to explain nearly everything, including dreams and visions, emotions and moods, life and death in terms of combination of certain particles in one's blood. Third, while people eagerly respond to the 'mission stories' very few if any of the discussion participants and article readers contributed one cent to Akim's project. That's all right, the Lord will provide. Nevertheless, we are very, very grateful to all sincere brothers and sisters who show their love and care. We have a great community of people. Akim's life and death become a test of it's strength, and naturally we've seen both sides of our brotherhood. Thank God for our great community of faith!

Crucially, Akim's mother, Elena, expained that in talking about Akim's death, they were not leveling accusations of murder, per se, but were expressing their anger and frustration over an alleged misdiagnosis at one small hospital, followed by a subsequent, ultimately failed attempt to save Akim's life at another hospital. At the same time, they remain persuaded that poison of some sort led to their son's death.

In private correspondence, Akim's mother stated that doctors provided strong antibiotics that did not work. HIV was suspected and eventually ruled out. Akim was moved to an isolation unit over fears of an unusual bacterial infection, but his parents remained in very close contact with Akim and did not get sick.

The official cause of death was given as multiple organ failure, Elena Zhigankov said. "All of his organs gave up--his kidneys stopped working, he had open ulcer in his stomach, bleeding." When his kidneys stopped working, water filled his lungs - pulmonary edema. He had already been on life support four days by that point.

Elena wrote a lengthy note of clarification walking back from previous rhetoric, but insisting that modern medicine failed them, and held up Ellen White's counsels on healing as the preferable alternative to the treatment Akim Zhigankov received. Excerpts of her public statement below.

De La Salle University Hospital has not responded to requests for comment.

We've been asked some questions regarding the letter we wrote explaining what happened to Akim. Two particular things appeared to be unclear, if not offensive to some people, and as it's been noted to us, we're willing to clarify. First, calling the place where Akim was killed 'a murderous place,' and second mentioning that hospitals only prolonged Akim's torture. Here's our brief apology. This is Elena Zhigankov writing.

When my husband was writing this letter we were very hurt and upset about what happen to our son. He did not mean all the Philippino pople or people of Romblon, but someone who did this to Akim. It is indeed the murderous place to us, as we've lost our son. I think, though, it is clear from the letter that it is not our statement on statistics, or an accusation, or something, but the feelings we experienced at that time. It should also appear clear that we've been able to overcome this feeling and not to let it develop into attitude. In fact, we decided to continue to serve the people of Romblon, with our money, talents and time. Hope this is a valid apology, if we need one.

The first hospital...mistakenly diagnosed him with dengue. Later on they admitted they just presumed he had one, while all the tests from the beginning suggested the opposite.

Second hospital...rejected our demand to see a toxicologist. They put Akim into isoleted room instead, as they believed in some virus ignoring our repeated warnings that he received messages that he was poisoned. Also the local people from Tablas island immediately recognized the symptoms of this poison, but it didn't convince doctors either - they never even considered to respond to our request to see a toxicologist.

I'm sorry to disappoint some people for whom modern medicine is a sacred cow, but we rather stick with Ellen White who promoted different kind of medical approach. Sure, we will not go after the hospitals, we will not sue them, on the contrary, we'll pay their astronomical bills. We don't blame anyone, and we're sorry if somebody could get offended with our report.

See the original report, "Young Philippine Missionary Akim Zhigankov Died from Poisoning, Parents Say."

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6678

(Pagophilus) #2

Interesting report.

In our dealing with the Filipino medical system, my wife and I have found the SOME doctors and other health professionals do indeed display an arrogance that is beyond comprehension. It appears that some people think their status gives them authority to think they know everything and to think or imply that the patient and/or their family are ignorant. But we have also found that others are truly humble and put the patient first. (And we have found more of the latter in the Adventist side of the health system fortunately.)

May God comfort the parents of Akim and continue to use them to serve the Filipino people.

(Peter Marks) #3

Perhaps there are many like me who would prefer not to give these genuinely distraught parents an uneccessary platform from which to take aim at all that medicine tried to do for their son. Unfortunately, comments of this nature by Akim’s parents are things that people most often live to regret. Silence is golden on the part of everyone!

(Pagophilus) #4

The allegations of poisoning also ring true of what happens in the Philippines occasionally. We have also been warned by local church members there that these things were happening in an area we were doing evangelism in.

It will be interesting to see how this develops, but when you are involved in the Lord’s work, there is a war going on which manifests in many different ways.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Incompetence and arrogance, The doctor’s title is very coveted in the Philippines. Once achieved, to be questioned is a personal insult.Reads like grieving parents caught up in a misdiagnosed and treated patient in a very unfortunate environment. Deliberate poisoning highly unlikely. (years ago the physicians in L. A. Went on strike and the death rate dropped in l.A. ) Tom Z

(Joselito Coo) #6

From AIIAS to our Adventist Medical Center-Manila (formerly Manila Sanitarium and Hospital) is about the same distance from the Adventist University of the Philippines (formerly Philippine Union College). When it comes to the care of their families, with a condition as severe as suspected poisoining or any number of unknown infections, though there are many small to medium-size hospitals along the way from the AUP to AMCM, our people from AUP in general would choose AMCM as their first stop. Not so with our beloved expats and their families in AIIAS. Why? My question is directed not to Akim’s parents, for they have more important things to think about than responding to me. I’m asking those from AIIAS and our division headquarters in particular who have expressed similar concerns regarding the alleged torture and negligence by the medical establishment.

(Elaine Nelson) #7

There are far too many unanswered accusations and answers. Why did the parents bringing up EGW’s Great Controversy into this, writing of visions and evil spirits? A tragic death but without an adequate autopsy will it ever be known?

(Elmer Cupino) #8

To Akim’s Parents,

As parents ourselves, we share your loss. No amount of words or explanations can lift your spirits. We understand your anger, the uncertainties and the loss of dreams for your son. We can only hope that you find comfort in your faith. We admire your determination to make a positive “attitude” out of this misery and we will be praying for your strength.

We are all disappointed like you.

(Elmer Cupino) #9

Isn’t the AIIAS a division school? Why did the school administrators not charter an airplane to fly Akim to AMCM? Have they (AIIAS administrators) lost their marbles?

(George Tichy) #10

Many (if not almost all) Adventists cannot carry a conversation without interjecting EGW into it. As I always say, they can’t think out of the boox!!!
Go figure!

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #11

My deepest sympathy goes to the Zhigankovs in this tragic loss.

A lot of what happens in medical care is indeed itself a source of suffering. As individuals & families we need to make decisions about when the possible benefits may not outweigh the burdens. These will take knowledge about the complexities of critical medical treatment & we may have to make very hard decisions. Unfortunately, we may be forced to make them in the midst of highest stress.

I’m not at all referring to the Zhigankovs here, just pointing out that there may very well be suffering inherent in medical treatments even when there’s no misdiagnosis or unprofessional care. Such suffering is a separate issue from suffering due to medical incompetence. Any suffering due to malpractice needs to be corrected so that it won’t be repeated. This would include filing official complaints within the health system itself & w/ relevant agencies responsible for oversight of hospitals & medical practitioners. I wouldn’t automatically rule out legal options to prevent this kind of suffering from being inflicted again.

(Elmer Cupino) #12

In a setting as this, the value is not being “the” GC as much as it provides a “holding environment” for the parents to draw strength, hope and inspiration to cope in times of tragedy.

(Elaine Nelson) #13

I realized that and that for some she is the first one to turn (not biblical promises).

(Pagophilus) #14

It’s only about 50km (though that 50km can take 2 and a half hours in peak traffic). Anyway, even from the airport in Manila to AMCM could take an hour depending on traffic. Getting to an airport then out of the airport and to AMCM probably wouldn’t save much time.

Perhaps they went to DLSUMC in Dasmarinas, Cavite because it was much closer and because it’s a decent teaching hospital.

Health care in the Philippines is fickle. The best advice is not to need it. (I realise this i not very helpful.) First, you have to deal with the costs. Drug prices are inexcusable. In Australia, the governments negotiate contracts with drug companies and therefore public hospitals buy some drugs at a fraction of the price they are sold for to private institutions. In the Philippines, drug prices are significantly greater than here, greater than even the non-contract pricing here, though you would think with the greater population there would be more buying power. It’s a project for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset. Import significantly cheaper pharmaceuticals through volume buying. And the public/private divide in the Philippines doesn’t mean much. The patient pays in either case, only slightly less in the public hospital, which is (usually, PGH being an exception) of a significantly lower standard than private.

(Pagophilus) #15

This is the Philippines. While that may look good in theory, I suspect if a complaint is filed, it will be filed into the nearest waste paper basket by people wishing to protect the status quo and their own positions.

(Rheticus) #16

Yes, they hurt

Yes, they failed to communicate clearly in their pain

Yes, they demonstrated that they are irrational and unreliable sources of fact

This later means that…

is irrelevant. Their opinions about the value of EGW’s medical work are as compromised as their statements about the medical treatment their son received.

Science, not emotion, is the path to validating medicine.

(Robert Sonter) #17

Very true, Bevin. I couldn’t help thinking when I read that, about the poor missionaries who died of malaria because Ellen White told them not to take quinine.

(Frank Peacham) #18

EGW was a lifelong advocate of in Water Cure… “We had confidence in the use of water as one of God’s appointed remedies, but no confidence in drugs.” “Why need anyone be ignorant of God’s remedies–hot-water fomentations and cold and hot compresses.”

(Joselito Coo) #19

AIIAS is a General Conference sponsored institution with a 15-member board consisting of 4 GC officers, 5 from each of the Northern and Southern Asia Pacific divisions, and the AIIAS president. GC VP Dr Ella Simmons chairs the AIIAS board.

(Gerhard Dr Svrcek Seiler) #20

That I am still alive is the best proof for this advice of EGW. In 1944 I suffered from scarlet fever, some kids in the vincinity already had died. No antibiotics except Prontosil rubrum. High fever. Suppuration out of the right ear and behind the right eye.

The official dogma : NO water in hte case of this disease.

My fathers decision : Cold baths.

I survived. The physician was astonished.