American Muslim doctor Omar Atiq decided to wipe out medical fees of cancer patients on the New Year’s Eve after realizing many of them were unable to pay the bills.
“Over time, I realized that there are people who just are unable to pay,” Dr. Atiq told “Good Morning America.” “So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt.”
Dr. Atiq is an oncologist who founded the Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff in 1991. The center sent the very special holiday greetings to his patients on Monday.
“I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
The Pakistani-American doctor says this has been an especially challenging year and it brings him joy to help his patients financially.
“Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having Cancer in this pandemic is devastating,” said Atiq.
The bills for 200 patients totaled around $650,000.
“I am just a regular physician– a regular person that they have in the neighborhood– just so happens to be me standing here,” Atiq said.
“The ones struggling couldn’t pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt.”
Atiq hopes this will bring hope for a brighter new year 2021.
“I love them, I care for them, and I am glad I was able to do a little bit at this point for them,” said Atiq.
A pillar of Islam, Zakat or charity is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet a criteria of wealth. It’s a mandatory charitable contribution, the right of the poor to find relief from the rich.
In addition to the obligatory Zakah, Islamic Shari’ah also encourages giving in optional charity, called Sadaqah.