Galveston hospital dismisses illegal immigrant before treatment

Lisa Hellier

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John Sealy Hospital, Galveston. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

John Sealy Hospital, Galveston. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Questionable hospital rules sparked a nationwide ethical debate after illegal immigrant Maria Sanchez was released from University of Texas Medical Branch’s John Sealy Hospital before having her scheduled surgery.

Sanchez, 24, had been in the hospital for six days and was going to have surgery in order to remove a banana size tumor that was growing along her spine. The painful tumor caused her to lose the use of her right hand and was hindering movement to her arms and legs.

On Jan. 12, 2011 she was told by a doctor to leave immediately because she was an illegal immigrant. According to Sanchez, the doctor said she should have surgery in Mexico.

Medical records describe her health condition as being a nonmalignant but potentially life-threatening tumor and state that she was released because she was “an undocumented pt [patient] with no insurance.”

“There was nothing ethical about what the doctor or hospital did,” Crystal Pena, public relations/advertising major, said.

There is no rule requiring hospitals to accept or reject illegal immigrants, but once they have accepted a patient they are responsible for treating the person until stable. Though, the definition of a stable patient does not seem to be clearly defined by hospitals.

“Hospitals need to get a little stricter [about patient stability rules] and a lot less biased,” Juan Gallardo, Hispanic Student Association president and secondary education major, said.

Some students are outraged at what the hospital did and share their own strong opinions on the matter.

WT student Imelda Saavedra mentions that immigration topics can be upsetting to her because, “not a lot of people realize how hard it is to be an immigrant.” Saavedra is a resident of the United States who is also proud to be from Mexico.

“I myself believe that it was in ways wrong that they kicked her out after already having admitted her as a patient,” Saavedra said. “I think that in any situation one should have the right to some type of healthcare.”

“In this case, to me, it’s not about helping at all. It is about not having papers and not getting paid. Money should be the last thing on their mind,” Pena said. “They made that poor woman seem like she wasn’t worthy of getting their help because she has no insurance or documents.”

Gallardo is surprised and angered over the incident.

“Since when did being here legally become more important than a human life?” Gallardo asks.

Gallardo wants doctors to think about how they would feel in the situation and believes they would not accept it and wonders why anyone else should.

“I honestly do not think it is fair that a hospital refuse to provide services to anyone. A life is too valuable to be tampered with,” Gallardo said.

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Galveston hospital dismisses illegal immigrant before treatment