Imagine you've been in the hospital for six days. You are suffering from a growing tumor in your spine, a cancerous growth that, with each passing hour, is taking away more and more of your normal bodily functions. You've stopped being able to control your right hand. Soon, you may lose the power to walk. Luckily, you live in a country housing the finest hospitals in the entire world. You're safe. You'll be cared for. Unless of course, you're undocumented.
Surgical patient Maria Sanchez of Texas faced this disheartening truth last month during her painfully abrupt stay at the University of Texas Medical Branch's John Sealy Hospital. Sanchez was admitted as a patient on January 5th, seeking treatment from an advanced tumor that was causing an incredible amount of discomfort. Sanchez had already received some treatment and minor surgery during her stay, but as she was preparing to undergo extensive surgery, she was approached by a Spanish-speaking doctor.
It was decided that Maria Sanchez did not deserve the type of care so readily disposable to other, "non-illegal" patients. Instead she would be discharged, thrown out the door. The doctor told her to go back to Mexico. Problem solved.
Already, UT's John Sealy Hospital is under fire from several organizations for its treatment (or lack of treatment) of a patient with a potentially life-threatening condition. Several doctors who have come forward to review the case confirm Maria's discharge is a serious ethics violation. Hospitals are ethically obligated to treat patients they have admitted. This commitment was all but ignored in Sanchez's case. The hospital threw her out when she needed them the most.
Photo credit: José Goulão
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