U of IL hospital sending back Mexican immigrant

Recently, we ran an article that stirred up some serious discussion on the subject of how to pay for the care of undocumented, medically-indigent immigrants, and how to handle things when a provider feels they can no longer foot the bill. The article detailed the practice, engaged in by some U.S. hospitals, of sending uninsured immigrants with costly, long-term medical needs back to their home countries--sometimes without the immigrant's permission.

Now, an Illinois case has come up that brings this practice into the spotlight. In this case, the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago is planning to return a 30-year-old Mexican man in a coma back to his home country over the objections of two of his family members. Francisco Pantaleon, who suffered a severe brain hemorrhage in mid-July, has lived in the U.S. for 11 years and has two children. After treating him for a while, UIMC plans to transfer Pantaleon to a hospital in Acapulco at its own expense. Though the facility has the consent of his immediate family to transfer the comatose man, his sister and cousin have hired lawyers to stop the transfer, saying that he won't survive the trip, or that if he does, he won't receive adequate care in Mexico.

With large numbers of undocumented, uninsured immigrants doing physically dangerous jobs in this country, expect to see this issue arise more frequently. Short of a sudden switch to universal coverage or a single-payer system, which presumably would make allowances for this situation, the issue's not going away anytime soon.

To learn more about this debate:
- read this Chicago Tribune piece

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