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.