By Dawn Cranfield
Immigrants Deported by US Hospitals while they are Unconscious
United States hospitals are coming under fire by some due to a practice known as “medical repatriation”, where undocumented immigrants are transported back to their native countries while they are unconscious. The process allows US hospitals to deport the unconscious patients without their consent if they come up as an undocumented immigrant.
The controversial practice has resulted in over 600 undocumented immigrants to be returned to their home countries in the last 5 years.
Immigration advocates believe it violates US and international laws by targeting immigrants while they are rendered helpless. “They don’t have advocates, and they don’t have people who will speak on their behalf,” immigrant advocate and attorney, John De Leon, of Miami, Florida, told The Huffington Post. (ringoffireradio.com)
US hospitals have used the process to cut the high cost of health care costs. “Most undocumented immigrants do not have health insurance, and they are not eligible for insurance programs, such as Medicaid.” (ringoffireradio.com)
While hospitals are required to respond to patients seeking treatment initially, regardless of their citizenship, insurance, or status, once they are stabilized, there is no funding to cover the remaining charges. Caring for uninsured patients is expensive, and hospitals are looking for any way they can to cut spending.
However, immigration and some healthcare advocates are concerned that an increasing number of hospitals will implement this medical repatriation due to healthcare reform. They believe that with more undocumented immigrants being deported through the process there will be a greater likelihood of losing track of the number of deportations.
“The problem is it’s all taking place in this unregulated sort of a black hole … and there is no tracking,” said law professor Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School, where free legal representation is offered to immigrants. (ringoffireradio.com)
It has been reported that some of the estimated 600 (or more) patients who were transported back to their home country subsequently died; it is believed they were moved to facilities with subpar medical care in relation to the care they were receiving in the United States.
In 2009, in a statement by the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, they urged doctors to not “‘allow hospital administrators to use their significant power and the current lack of regulations’ to deport undocumented patients”. (ringoffireradio.com)
However, the statement went on to add, “Doctors cannot expect hospitals to provide costly uncompensated care to patients indefinitely. But neither should physicians allow hospitals to arbitrarily determine the fate of an uninsured, non-citizen immigrant patient.” (ringoffireradio.com)
I understand being empathetic, and it is easy to get drawn in when you hear stories about somebody being sent to a country with substandard or subpar medical care, especially if they perish; however, there are plenty of people in this country, American citizens, who do not have medical insurance who get turned away every day from the hospital. Besides, those who do have medical insurance pay higher premiums and higher bills to pay for those who do not.
So, before you protest sending an undocumented immigrant who has no ability to pay, think of your fellow American who may not have the ability to pay, and even those who do.