Hospital expels patient, raises ethical questions

A doctor at University of Texas Medical Branch's John Sealy Hospital told a patient who was being prepared for surgery to leave the hospital because she was an illegal immigrant, the Houston Chronicle reports. He told the patient, who had been at the hospital six days, to go to Mexico for the surgery to remove a spinal tumor.

Hospital records show that the patient was discharged because she was "an undocumented [patient] with no insurance."

No law specifies whether a hospital must accept illegal immigrants as patients outside the ER, experts told the Chronicle. But hospitals are ethically required to provide care after accepting a patient, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay, Laurence McCullogh, a medical ethics and health policy professor at Baylor College of Medicine said.

Arthur Caplan, chair of the medical ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania did not agree. While the duty to stabilize people with life threatening conditions, regardless of country or insurance status, is a given, each hospital will have to decide "how it will distribute its charity," he told Citizens would get priority over illegal immigrants, he said, because charity begins at home.

To learn more:
- read the Houston Chronicle article
- here's the article

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