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  • Health Minister Nelson Teich during the announcement of his appointment, Brasilia, Brazil, April 16, 2020.

    Health Minister Nelson Teich during the announcement of his appointment, Brasilia, Brazil, April 16, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 April 2020
Opinion

Bolsonaro's Harvard-trained Health Minister recommends treating patients according to the investment required to improve their health.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro Thursday appointed Nelson Teich as the new Health Minister to replace Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was removed for defending the World Health Organization (WHO) preventive measures to avoid COVID-19.

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The oncologist Teich studied health economics at York University and then took part in a management program at Harvard Business School.

Following his orthodox economic training, Teich would seem to conceive the right to health as something that must be respected according to a cost-benefit calculation.

In 2019, when there was no epidemiological emergency forcing public healthcare to be seen as a battle against a deadly virus, Bolsonaro's new minister advised colleagues to consider the age of patients in deciding which one "deserves an investment" in their treatment.

"If you have limited monetary resources, you'll have to make decisions and define where you'll invest. I have an elderly patient with complications and an advanced chronic disease. For that person to improve, I'd have to spend the same amount that I would spend on a teenager... who has his whole life ahead while the other is an older person who may be at the end of his life. What will be the choice ?," asked Teich during the 9th Oncology Forum in Brasilia.

"Everybody broke COVID-19 protection protocols at the opening ceremony of the new Health Minister Nelson Teich. Without masks, they exchanged handshakes. A great example for Brazil. President's speech continued to attack governors and Congress."

"The discussion is about the system's efficiency and how resources are used to make it efficient," he explained at the panel on "Sustainable and Fair Oncology."​​​​​​​

Upon learning about the appointment made by the Brazilian president, Regina Pussente recalled how Dr. Teich treated her dying mother.

"Even knowing she was terminally ill and feeling absurd pain, he left her waiting a long time... After we complained, he left his office, addressed us, and said, 'There's no use doing something. She'll die. Lay her on the next room's gurney. When everything is over, I will answer you'," Pussente tweeted on Friday morning.​​​​​​​

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