Friday, March 24, 2006

Those da*#ed illegal aliens using up our tax dollars

Well, put that title in quotation marks in your mind, would you please? I'm paraphrasing multiple conversations I hear all the time.

A recent discussion in the comments section on a blog I've been reading have me thinking again about this subject.

There appears to be a knee-jerk response by a certain segment of the American public (health professionals included) who, when given an example of compassionate care for an undocumented immigrant, state it's not fair:

"It's not fair to reward them for being here illegally".

"Why are they allowed to get medical treatment in the ER?"

"Why don't you all just turn them over to the Immigration folks?"

Without minimizing the problems implicit in large segments of folks entering the US illegally (there are problems, I acknowledge that), trying to control this by controlling access to health care is wrong. Doctors and nurses are ethically required to treat everyone who comes to them, and this includes major as well as minor criminals. We don't do background checks on you. We don't cut off your bloody clothes in the ER and see the knife wound, and then ask for your papers.

And we shouldn't.

In addition, public health measures that would attempt to weed out those who are here without legal status and not treat, are a danger to the rest of us. Tuberculosis treatment, for instance, would be ineffective if we only treated a certain portion of people in a community. An undocumented resident still spreads Tb to the rest of us, if untreated.

And a woman in labor is a woman in labor. Have we actually come to the point where the American public expects a hospital to toss her out on the street to deliver at the nearest 7-11 parking lot, because she can't prove her status among us?

Problems with illegal immigration should be handled at the point of entry (preventative measures, in other words) not at the point of necessity for health care. Health care is health care, and if we ourselves expect to be treated fairly regardless of our own age, race, income, or sexual background, then we make exclusionary rules with extreme care.



Blogger Moof said...

Mary, reading what you've written, I have to agree with you.

Our humanity, if nothing else, should reach out to those who are in need - no matter what they've done.

At the same time, with health care precariously perched at the top of a very steep cliff - the base of which is a collapsed system - we have to admit that this sort of thing is going to continue to bring the quality (and availability) of health care down for everyone. We could soon find ourselves living with the same nightmarish problems that Dr. Crippen from over in the UK blogs about daily.

You're also right about the solution - it should be dealt with at the point of entry - but that's not happening.

Sadly - it really is a "catch-22."

8:44 AM  
Blogger mary said...

Yes but hmmm. I'm trying to imagine an America where one has to carry one's papers everywhere, and has to produce them at all times to satisfy the hospital wardens. What if they get left behind in the car, when you get put unconscious on the stretcher and airlifted into the trauma center? Will everything come to a screaming halt while the cops rush back to make sure you are legally entitled to trauma care?

I don't like this emphasis we've developed that somehow we will stop immigration by denying health care to "people who don't deserve it". No we won't. They will come anyway, just like they do now. We can't stop people coming over the border from Mexico because some mom in Virginia had to deliver in the parking lot, or some MVA was refused treatment in some ER somewhere. We can't use medical care to bludgeon individual people because we have a crisis looming in undocumented immigration.

That's my opinion.



9:30 PM  
Anonymous Moof said...

Mary, I agree - we're not going to put a halt to the problem by denying medical care.

The business with needing our "papers" is really rather scary ... I can foresee some Orwellian scenarios arising from that.

All of that said - we do still have rather serious problems - both with the state of health care, and with illegal immigration, with the latter impacting the former in a rather negative way.

I honestly don't know what the solution is. I suspect that, at least partially, it will have to originate from the other side of the border ...

9:18 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Here in CA we actually passed a law that would have prevented illegals from obtaining care in our ERs.

I voted against it - something you would not think a "conservative" would do.

(At the time I was working in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood and was pretty sure that a large number of my patients were not here "with papers".)

Luckily it was blocked and never enforced, because I would have been breaking the law right and left because I would not have ever enforced it.

You come into the ER and you are treated as a human being with dignity.

If you are here illegally, then that can be dealt with later and elsewhere.

Not when you come in for healthcare.

5:05 PM  
Blogger mary said...

You voted against it because you understood the ramifications of the "common sense" law, which too many people simply don't understand. Doctors and nurses are not immigration officials, not cops or judges. They are doctors and nurses. They treat sick people.

As least, so far in America, that's what we do. If we have to check the baby in status epilepticus for papers first, we are in a new America, one I don't like.


7:34 AM  

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