An immigrant woman from Honduras who has very recently awakened from a coma is being threatened with what can effectively be called deportation, because she does not have the insurance needed to cover her medical bills. (Don’t read the comments in these articles unless you want to lose your lunch.) But here is the real kicker: while it would be repulsive and incredibly inhumane to deport an uninsured/under-insured person with a serious medical condition because of their undocumented status, despite the lack of adequate facilities for their care in their nations of citizenship, it isn’t even the case here. Sonia del Cid Iscoa has a current visa and in the U.S. legally. (All emphasis in quoted text is mine.)
A gravely ill woman at risk of being removed from the country for lack of adequate insurance coverage awoke from a coma Tuesday.
The hospital has been seeking to return her to her native Honduras; her family took the hospital to court.
[. . .]
Iscoa, 34, has a valid visa and has lived in the United States for more than 17 years. She has no family in Honduras.
But St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center sought to have her sent to Honduras when she went into a coma April 20 after giving birth to a daughter about 8 weeks premature. Iscoa has an amended version of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System coverage that does not cover long-term care, Curtin said. But her family worried that the move would seriously harm her, or, at the very least, prevent her from ever returning to the United States.
Iscoa’s mother, Joaquina del Cid Plasecea, obtained a temporary restraining order to keep her from being moved. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Carey Hyatt also ordered that the family post a $20,000 bond by Tuesday to cover St. Joseph’s costs of postponing the transfer.
However, Curtin said that the hospital gave the family three more days to come up with the money before a hearing Friday.
If the family can prove that Iscoa would suffer irreparable injury by a move, the bond will be refunded and Iscoa will not be transferred. But if Hyatt determines that Iscoa is not in imminent danger by a move, the family will forfeit the bond.
A stipulation to a court order issued by Hyatt Tuesday evening said that the parties were “actively exploring alternative sources of securing payment for the medical bills of Sonia Iscoa.”
The original story is close to a week old — but a judge has postponed the hearing until this Friday (which would be May 23rd). As I said, the Honduran hospital that St. Joseph’s is looking to transfer Iscoa to has agreed to accept her as a patient but warns that they cannot provide her with the care she needs.
Iscoa went to the hospital on April 16 because of abnormal bleeding, but the hospital sent her home, family members said. The next day, her doctor asked her to return, and when her water broke and she began having contractions on April 20, she was rushed into surgery and did not regain consciousness afterwards.
“They told us that she was bleeding excessively, and they had to do a hysterectomy on her, but they didn’t know why she was in a coma,” said Maria Adame, a family spokeswoman.
Iscoa went into kidney failure. She had two more surgeries and had an ovary removed.
Meanwhile, Adame said the family is having trouble getting medical records from St. Joseph’s.
An independent doctor was scheduled to examine her on Saturday to help assess whether she can or should be moved.
Liliana Flores, a spokeswoman for Hospital Escuela, said that the hospital would accept Iscoa but cautioned that its ICU unit only has four beds and the hospital has no dialysis unit.
There are attorneys and Honduran groups who are desperately trying to help Iscoa and her family.
Suzanne Pfister, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said that as many as eight patients are transferred each month to other countries, mostly to Mexico.
It’s a practice some lawyers are calling into question, specifically whether a hospital has the legal authority to force patients to cross international borders against their will. One attorney in Tucson has twice called police and accused hospital staff of kidnapping to stop the transfers.
“Right now the hospital is exploring with us the alternative means of being able to try to provide a long-term solution to the problem,” said Iscoa’s attorney, Joel Robbins.
[. . .]
The relatives contacted attorneys and got a temporary restraining order.
Judge Carey Snyder Hyatt of Maricopa County Superior Court ordered that the family post a $20,000 bond against expenses incurred by the hospital in the delay.
Robbins said it will be posted by the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association.
Nora Montoya, consul general for Honduras in Arizona, said that Honduran groups here and in Los Angeles and Washington are raising money for her medical care.
Robbins is hopeful that a compromise can be reached to find long-term medical care for Iscoa in Arizona, and he and his associates are talking with other health-care organizations.
[. . .]
Mitchel, who has lived with Iscoa for four years but is not married to her, wondered how they could send her to another country against their wishes.
Hospital representatives were not sure if such transfers had been successfully challenged in court, despite the frequency with which they are carried out. It is the federal government that ordinarily determines who must leave the country.
Fernando Gaxiola, a criminal-defense and immigration attorney in Tucson, said that he has twice thwarted such transfers by calling police and Mexican authorities and reported the transfers as kidnappings.
You know, the question really does seem like a no-brainer. In what rational world does a hospital have the right to send a patient to another country against her wishes? I know that on a day-to-day basis, our shitty health care system seems to have as much if not more direct power over our lives than the government does. But despite the common perception, they are not all-powerful. They are not the government. And they do not have the right to deport anyone, let alone a woman who is in the country legally and in grave medical condition. Gaxiola was entirely right to report previous “transfers” to authorities as kidnappings. And pretty damn smart to have done so.
Furthermore, knowingly and forcibly transferring a patient with kidney failure to a facility that does not have a dialysis unit is nothing short of violence. Plain and simple. Regardless of how we tend to behave, being a citizen of any nation other than the United States does not revoke your status as a human being. This is both racist and classist. This is flat out wrong.
Helping Iscoa’s loved ones to pay for her medical care will not solve the bigger problem or help those who come after her. That is why the legal action is absolutely necessary. But we can help one woman receive the care she needs to live and to stay with her family, and loudly voice our opinion that this is in no way acceptable.