Hospitals Deporting People – a Human Rights Issue?

Judging from  recent news reports, quite a number of US hospitals are resorting to deporting patients who have been stabilised but have nowhere to go. This applies particularly to illegal immigrants who are uninsured and unable to financially support themselves.

Hospitals caught in a Catch-22 situation

To highlight an example, the New York Times recently reported of a 35 year-old  Guatemalan patient who came to the US illegally and was knocked down by a car 8 years ago in Florida. A community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him in the ward for years at a cost of US$1.5 million. During a prolonged legal battle, the hospital decided on its own to charter an air ambulance and fly the patient back to Guatemala, wheelchair and all, on the basis that this would be less expensive in the long run.  Not so fortunate is, another patient,  a 30 year old Mexican who is being deported by a hospital while in coma. Read about it here.

This case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid covers emergency care (to some extent) but does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants. However, hospitals are obligated by law to arrange for post-hospital care.

Still, human rights activists are understandably outraged –“there is something wrong with the system when the bottom line is more important than a human life”.

Hospital authorities counteract by saying – ” We are running a business. Someone has to pay for it at the end of the day. Besides, we have gone out of our way to send these patients back at our own expense. All of this is done legally – what about the felony charges against illegal aliens?”

My take on this is that the whole world is faced with limited resources especially in healthcare. Which is why in an earlier post (read here ), I predict that many countries will soon have to come to accept that :

..basic healthcare is a basic human right.


One response

  1. If developed countries are doing this, what chance have developing countries got?
    I mean, will Malaysia do the same and send back patients originating from neighbouring countries?

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