May 30, 2017

Nearly a year after Abbas Kiarostami passed away in a hospital in Paris, the cause of his death remains a mystery.

Abbas Kiarostami

The head of Iran’s Medical Council, Alireza Zali, told reporters on 29th May that the late Iranian filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami, died after suffering a major haemorrhage (subdural haematoma).

However, Kirarostami’s son, Bahman, has questioned the findings. He insists that the haemorrhage was caused by blood thinning medication Heparin. Kiarostami was reportedly prescribed a daily dose of 24,000 unit of the drug.

Bahman Kiarostami insists,“We have repeatedly asked the Medical Council for my father’s medical report for the four months he was hospitalized in Tehran. Instead, they refer us to the treatment he received for three days in France.” He adds: “We are not trying to determine the cause of my father’s death but rather to discover the course of his treatment.”

Meanwhile, Alireza Zali maintains that his office has twice contacted France’s coroner office and the hospital where Kiarostami received treatment, requesting copies of his medical record.

Zali says, “In our second letter, we stated that Iran’s Medical Council is legally responsible for reviewing the file. We asked them to send us a copy of Kiarostami’s medical record.”  He adds that his office eventually received a summary of the medical file, but only after the French ambassador to Tehran had weighed in on the matter.

According to Zali, a group of 40 experts who have examined Kiarostami’s medical file have discovered certain ambiguities regarding the treatment that Kiarostami received in France.  Zali asserts,“ We are concerned about a number of issues, including the fact that an autopsy was not performed on Kiarostami’s body before it was returned to Iran; it is standard practice.”

Zali claims that Kiarostami died from an overdose of Heparin. He states, “According to his file, Kiarostami was treated for pulmonary embolism by the French doctors. However, two days before being transferred to the hospital in Paris, Kiarostami underwent a chest CT scan at Arad Hospital that showed no sign of embolism.”

Zali is still waiting for a response to a letter sent to the Paris hospital. The letter requests the list of symptoms that led to the embolism diagnosis, and the reason for the prescription of Heparin. It also asks for medical and nursing care records for the night of Kiarostami’s passing after midnight. An attending doctor realized that the patient had fallen into a deep coma at 6am.

Kiarostami was declared brain dead within two hours of being transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) ward.

Zali asserts that the French hospital is prepared to release Kiarostami’s medical file to his family. He adds, “Kiarostami family has attended all the meetings held to review the medical files. We have forwarded our findings to the Health Ministry.”

However, the Kiarostami family has challenged the findings. Zali, conceded,“ Kiarostami family and the late director’s doctor questioned the conclusions, which prompted us to refer the matter to the courts. Clearly, this further delays the final verdict.” He argued that the Medical Council could not release a statement to the media until the final verdict is issued. Zali added: “ We are expecting an announcement in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, Bahman Kiarostami insists that French medical authorities had provided a copy of his father’s complete medical record to him which was subsequently forwarded to Zali’s office. He says: “ We gave copies of the record to the Medical Council and Iran’s coroner office nine months ago. To the best of my knowledge the council has translated the text.”

Commenting on a recent meeting of the committee reviewing his late father’s medical file, Bahman said, “We had hoped to discuss the case with doctors who would offer objective views of the case. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to ask all our questions. Instead, the meeting revolved around the treatment my father received during his last three days in a Paris hospital.”

He added, “ At the end of the meeting we asked for a complete report of the case. We were told that the report was confidential and would only be available to the prosecutor in charge of the case.”

Bahman says,“We have repeatedly stated that we are not questioning the cause of my father’s death. We are also aware that the Medical Council and Iran’s coroner office do not investigate medical cases that take place abroad. We are concerned about the medical care and treatment my father received in Iran. I hope we will get a verdict in the coming days.”