If you’re sick, don’t go to the hospital, or you might die
Apparently, that's the moral of the story for Edith Isabel Rodriguez and others who, by virtue of where they live, would be sent to Martin Luther King, Jr. Harbor Hospital in L.A. if they needed to go to the emergency room.
I was already planning to see Michael Moore's new film Sicko, which reflects upon our nation's health care crisis, when it comes out next week. Then I read the devastating story of Rodriguez, a Los Angeles woman who died on the floor of an emergency room a month ago, while staff looked on and a custodian even mopped around her. Despite two 911 phone calls, and clear signs of her impending death, she was not actually examined until it was much too late.
Unfortunately, Edith's fate is not unique. Others have died or been severely injured from unreasonable care at the hospital. See, for example, the stories of Beatrice Vance, who died from lack of treatment for a heart attack, and Juan Ponce, who almost died from an untreated brain tumor. A recent blog by Rosemarie Jackowski put it so aptly:
Living in the U.S. can be dangerous to your health. This is a nation that puts profits before patients; capitalism before compassion. Sadly, Edith is not alone. In the United States 18,000 die every year from lack of medical care. That is like having a 9/11 every 60 days. It is worse than 9/11 because these are needless deaths that we are imposing on ourselves. These deaths will continue until there is a strong grassroots movement for a universal, single payer health care system.
There are clear racial, cultural, and socio-economic implications in the stories of Rodriguez, Ponce and Vance. All were people of color, two were non-native English speakers. Martin Luther King, Jr.-Harbor hospital was built in order to serve the mainly poor and minority members of the surrounding community, yet in this case it appears that no service would have been just as good as bad service. Indeed, had paramedics taken Rodriguez to another hospital she would have had a chance to live.
Rodriguez's story is particularly infuriating in light of the fact that the hospital had already been blamed in a rash of previous claims of sub-standard care. The difference here was a surveillance camera and two 911 phone calls that documented the incident.
I just wanted to put her story out there, in case people have yet to read about it. While amplifying the call for some type of health care reform, the story also creates yet another occasion for us to stop and examine the importance of our civil justice system. Under tort "reform" measures like health courts, the family of Edith Rodriguez would be severely limited as they sought justice for their loved one.
By the way, Moore's film also chronicles the experiences of 9/11 rescue workers who've been shut away from adequate care, a subject we've covered in detail on TortDeform. An interesting read was in today's New York Times, about two police detectives whose lives have been dramatically changed by their ground-zero related illnesses.