Imagine: you awaken, paralyze, unable to talk. You’re at the mercy of the people around you. Though frightened, you’re in a hospital, and you trust the staff to take care of you. People from the surrounding community come to help, look after you, ease the trauma.
Then, one day, you’re suddenly moved. You don’t know where you’re going. When somebody says you’re going “home,” you can’t get the words out to ask questions or object to being dragged off. You’re shipped out of the United States, deposited alone in your native country. The people who had been taking care of you protest, but it’s too late to do anything. Your new hospital lacks basic medical and therapeutic resources, and your family lives too far away to stay with you, unlike the strong support system you already had.
This is what happened to 20-year-old Quelino Ojeda Jimenez, who found himself nearly quadriplegic after a severe fall from the Chicago construction site where he worked, simply because he was an undocumented immigrant. "They threw him out like he was a piece of garbage," declared disability rights advocate Horacio Esparza. One caretaker, Florinda Marcial, says she saw Ojeda crying as he was whisked away, but neither her pleas nor the attempted intervention of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago stopped the de facto deportation.
The hospital at fault, Advocate Christ, says it “regrets” the way events went -- such as utterly failing to get their patient’s permission before shipping him off -- but insists that given his need for ongoing medical care it was best to send him to “family.” Yet the truth is that Ojeda was much better off in Chicago, where fellow Mexican immigrants had rallied to his aid and were prepared to continue to help the young man.
A person’s immigrant status does not strip them of their humanity, and I’m not familiar with the caveat in the Hippocratic Oath that says it actually is okay to harm undocumented immigrants. Ojeda deserved medical care, and he certainly deserved to be treated like a human being, with a right to a say over his care.
Advocate Christ intends to draw up more comprehensive instruction on dealing with immigrant patients. Make certain that these policies state clearly that a patient rights are not contingent on immigration status, and that nobody at their hospital will be sent away by staff without their explicit permission.
Photo credit: markhillary