Just Another Guy with Opinions

Comatose Illegal Alien to be Deported

Posted by shadmia on August 21, 2008

This is the story of 30-year-old Francisco Pantaleon, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. He had a brain hemorrhage and is in a coma at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. The hospital wants to send him back to Mexico. They say they have the permission of his immediate family but his sister and a cousin have retained a lawyer to fight his deportation.

There is something about this story that just seems wrong to me. Have we, as a nation, forgotten what it is to be compassionate? Yes, we are talking about an illegal immigrant who has no insurance and will very likely need intensive, long term medical care. But we are also talking about a human being who has spent 11 years in this country working menial jobs to support his family and who, by no fault of his own, became sick. It seems to me on a purely humanitarian level he deserves to be treated with the same level of medical assistance offered to any citizen or legal resident. He is after all a human being.

This story appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune. This topic is also covered by the New York Times.

According to his sister, Socorro, Francisco Pantaleon, 30, arrived illegally in the United States 11 years ago. He has two children and worked at a carwash but has no insurance. In mid-July Mr. Pantaleon suffered a severe brain hemorrhage. He is currently in a coma at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. His case has brought to light a little known policy of hospitals to send medically needy undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin.

The hospital claims the immediate family has consented to have Francisco returned to Mexico. In a statement the hospital said that since there is “little hope for recovery” they have arranged, at their own expense, to send him to a hospital in Acapulco. Pantaleon’s wife was not available to confirm or deny this.

Pantaleon’s sister and cousin are protesting that arrangement and have retained lawyers in hopes of preventing it. “This is an injustice,” said his sister, who worries that Pantaleon won’t survive the trip or find adequate care in Mexico.

Legally hospitals are required to treat and stabilize anyone who is in need of emergency medical assistance, regardless of their immigration or insurance status. But here is where it gets murky: After stabilizing a patient hospitals are required to arrange to transfer patients to settings where they can receive adequate care said Doreena Wong, staff attorney for the National Health Law Program. The problem is nursing homes in Chicago usually will not serve undocumented immigrants who don’t have health insurance or any means to pay for care.

“We can’t arrange long-term care here, so we try to do the best we can in the country of origin,” said Dr. William Chamberlin, chief medical officer at UIC Medical Center.

According to Sonal Ambegaokar, health policy attorney at the National Immigrant Law Center, this may put the hospital in the position of acting as an immigration agent by effectively getting into the deportation business. She suggests that their actions may deprive the patient of due process.

“It’s important to make sure that hospitals aren’t permitted to dump patients on an international level when they can’t do it on a local level,” said James Geraghty, a Chicago lawyer working with Pantaleon’s sister and cousin.

The hospital is of course concerned with the cost of providing patient care with limited financial resources.

“Hospitals don’t have the financial resources to meet all of the acute care needs [of patients without insurance], let alone take on all the chronic care needs that present with patients like this,” Chamberlin said.

Howard Peters, senior vice president of government relations at the Illinois Hospital Association, said “the family ought to be grateful” that UIC found a facility in Mexico willing to take Pantaleon and volunteered to pay for the trip.

The New York Times has a similar story about Luis Alberto Jiménez, another illegal immigrant who suffered brain damage after being involved in a car accident with a drunken driver. The hospital wanted to send him home to his native Guatemala. Lawyers filed a suit on his behalf which the hospital won, but while the case was being appealed the hospital went ahead and deported him. The lawyers won the case on appeal but Jiménez was already in Guatemala where, after a brief stay in a local hospital, he was sent home to fend for himself. See the Luis Alberto Jimenez story here.

I understand that hospitals have financial concerns and that the cost of medical care in this country is outrageous. However, a hospital, by its very definition, is a place where people go when they need medical assistance. We as a society, have the responsibility to take care of our sick. Even the vilest of criminals in the penal system are afforded medical attention. There is something wrong with the system when the bottom line is more important than a human life. There should be no discrimination nor proof of residency nor proof of insurance status when it comes to providing health care. But for the accident of birth you or your loved one could be Francisco or Luis.

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6 Responses to “Comatose Illegal Alien to be Deported”

  1. Alex Klauss said

    Let us forget for a moment of the FELONY charges Francisco Pantaleon, and possibly his entire family, should be facing for being here illegally for 11 years. Hospitals are still businesses and they cannot afford to pay for the medical expenses of everyone who comes in. And in Francisco Pantaleon’s case, UIC would be looking at Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in medical expenses for intensive care for probably decades in order to properly treat him. You are essentially stating that those who really do not want to pay their medical expenses are not obligated to do so.

    UIC has done its responsibility as a medical facility which under the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act is to: “First, it requires that when a person seeks treatment at a hospital”s emergency room, the hospital must provide for an appropriate medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition exists or whether the patient is in active labor. Second, if the screening examination reveals that such an emergency medical condition does exist, the hospital ordinarily must “stabilize” the medical condition before transferring or discharging the patient from the emergency room”.

    UIC even provided service beyond the guidelines of the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act by locating a medical facility in his home country and offering to pay for the expenses of transporting Mr. Pantaleon to that facility. UIC did abide by the law and in no way should the hospital have to provide any more treatment for him.

  2. nearlynormalized said

    It will come back to haunt us–Viva Mexico and the wonderful Mexican people!!!!! The Old Gringa who loves Yelapa!!!

  3. Nuclear said

    “a hospital, by its very definition, is a place where people go when they need medical assistance”

    Actually, he no longer meets qualifications for hospital admission. Medically, he should be placed in a long term care facility. Sounds like the hospital tried to find a local place and failed and then found some place that would. This isn’t a case of dumping as the patient is not appropriate for inpatient medical care.

    That happens every day to regular citizens. After they are treated for whatever medical illness, it turns out that they have suffered some disability and thus will not be able to return to their former living conditions. The patient, or family if the patient cannot communicate, always want to find a facility close to them, but frequently due to contractual agreements between different facilities and their insurance companies, or different facilities own rules about who they accept the only facility accepting the patient is a significant distance away. Of course, if they were independently wealthy, yes they would have more options, but being discharged from a hospital to a remote care facility is standard. This case is just sensationalist because he’s being discharged to a facility in another country, BECAUSE he is a citizen of that country. It is actually an option that wouldn’t be available to a US citizen. The hospital is not deporting him, but finding him a facility at the correct level of care for his condition that will accept him.

    Also, keep in mind that when you say he (or anyone else regardless of citizenship) should be treated no matter what does that mean the hospital should treat him even if they are not paid? Should the doctors treat him and not be paid? Should nurses care for him gratis? Should pharmacy companies, medical equipment companies etc. provide their services for free? How many people should be enslaved for this cause?

  4. francisco said

    im francisco pantaleon my uncle is the one in coma and its not fair for the hospital to do this to him where all human beens so we suld be treated like anybody else in this country

  5. Debi said

    The hospital has finished it’s obligation to him. He belongs in his country of origin as does the rest of his family. I as many other Americans am tired of picking up the tab for ungrateful illegal aliens who think they are entitled to welfare, free healthcare, free prenatal and obstetric care, free food, free housing, free clothing, free education, etc. while they undercut wages, spit on our laws, spit on our flag, completely disrespect everything about our country. When they get arrested, they think the laws never apply to them. They always expect special treatment. Send the sister and cousin home too.

  6. Rork Azak said

    One question : who is paying for the care that this illegal alien receives ? Does the American taxpayer take it in the shorts again for another illegal alien. Enough is enough. The carwash hired him and now, once again, it’s the taxpayer who has to support the illegal. Let’s see, if I go to Mexico and demand medical treatment, it is denied. Stop the compassion bullshit. How many U.S. hospitals have to declare bankruptcy and regular citizens are denied care because of Mexico’s chief export, i.e. people ?

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