Social Question

SmashTheState's avatar

Does a country have an obligation to provide life-saving health care to a worker who is in the country illegally, but injured himself while working in that country?

Asked by SmashTheState (14223points) January 5th, 2012

Some of you may have heard about this case in which Quelino Jimenez, a Mexikan who was working illegally in Amerika, was injured on the job and became quadriplegic as a result. Unable to breathe on his own, he was nonetheless deported to Mexiko, where the ill-equipped hospitals were unable to provide the care he needed; the hospital couldn’t afford new filters for his ventilator, for example, and re-used the same filter after cleaning it by hand. Within a year, he developed bedsores and infections and eventually died.

This is not a case of someone with a pre-existing condition arriving in Amerika and trying to procure free treatment. This man was injured while working for an Amerikan construction firm, then summarily evicted from the country when he suffered a crippling injury as a result.

Was this situation handled correctly? If not, what do you believe should have been done?

(NB: To forestall questions by those who aren’t already aware, I spell country names with a ‘k’ – Kanada, Amerika, Mexiko, et al. – as a way of indicating my personal objection to nationalism.)

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26 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

No. But a hospital does.

Perhaps the problem could be ameliorated somewhat if hospitals were allowed to sue those who employed workers illegally for any services rendered due to a workplace injury.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I think it’s bullshit. It’s like not giving care to an injured child who fell in a well because he/she shouldn’t be playing around there in the first place.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I do not necessarily agree with this deportation, but that has nothing to do with the medical nature of it. I’m not a fan of deporting someone who has broken no laws aside from entering the country without the proper paperwork. As far as I’m concerned, he was doing a job on US soil and he sustained an injury that he would not have sustained had he not been doing that job. Just so it’s clear, I feel the same way about any country that does this, not just my own. I also disagree with Canada kicking out Americans who sneak across the border to get care when no one will help them over here.

What a helluva way to show your objection. Your misspellings must really rile up the UN.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Knowing @SmashTheState , it’s most likely that the “misspellings” are deliberate! : )

zenvelo's avatar

It’s the employer who is responsible, not the government. That’s why companies have disability insurance. The company should make sure he is cared for in Mexico.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Well, on one hand human life has value, but on the other hand so do ventilator filters. There are about seven billion people on this planet now, so many that there are even terms such as “over populated” and so on, but I have never heard any reports about the world being “over ventilator filtered”, so I’m guessing the little sponge filter has the higher value.

Kill two birds with one stone and let the guy die, we get to remedy over population at the same time that we protect out precious ventilator filter stock piles.

CWOTUS's avatar

“A country” doesn’t have that obligation, and for that matter, neither does “a hospital”. (Hospitals in the USA are required by law to provide emergency care to anyone, regardless of ability – or willingness – to pay. They are not required to provide maintenance care once a patient is “stabilized”. The definition of the word “stabilized” is a term for doctors and attorneys / legislators to argue over. I’m not going to attempt to define it here.)

I liked the answer that @Imadethisupwithnoforethought provided. If those companies weren’t too often one accident away from bankruptcy to begin with, that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

And I personally feel that we shouldn’t have any restrictions against Mexicans – or Canadians – entering this country to work, just the way people from Michigan can migrate to Texas or any other state to work without obtaining special permission. That doesn’t change the answer, though.

selfe's avatar

I had not heard about this person. How sad (even if people should not be anywhere illegally). I did read of another person being flown back to their country of origin by the hospital after getting hurt in a similar way, but I don’t think he got hurt on the job in that case… I’m not an expert but would workers’ compensation cover any of this?

Is there an obligation to provide life-saving healthcare throughout the USA?

When you ask if the situation was handled correctly, could it have been forseen that deportation would have meant death?

As far as what I believe should have been done, where do I start? Make things better in Mexico so people don’t feel they need to go to another country illegally to find work. Make sure workers are as safe as possible on the job. Find a cure for these injuries…

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t believe the country has such an obligation. The employer should have been covering the cost due to it being a work related injury. I’m guessing that if he was working under the table, he wouldn’t have been eligible for Workman’s Comp. I could be wrong though. Unfortunately, I think that is part of the risk someone takes when they work under the table (American citizens and undocumented workers).

The hospital did provide the life-saving care for him. He was medically stable (by the sounds of the article and the fact that he lived for a year in Mexico) when they transfered him from one facility to another. It really stinks that the medical care is so bad where he went.

While I don’t know completely how I feel about the deportation (it was definitely badly timed), I think the responsibility to provide the correct care for him belongs with the facility he went to in Mexico. Citizenship aside, the accepting facility assumed responsibility for him and his care. There are simple interventions necessary to prevent bed sores (turning a patient every 2 hours) that work very well and don’t require much effort. There are also interventions to prevent sepsis and pneumonia that don’t require state of the art medical equipment, such as frequent thorough oral care of patients on a ventilator, getting patients out of bed and up in a chair, frequent hand washing, keeping equipment clean, and maintaining a clean environment around the patient. Those things don’t require state of the art medical equipment.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“This man was injured while working for an Amerikan construction firm”

The construction firm should have been held responsible. It was their action that allowed the man to work for them. We should all be held accountable to our own actions. If one of their trucks broke, they would fix it no questions.

Jaxk's avatar

This all sounds like the typical, “if something goes wrong, it’somebody else’s fault”. The guy got medical attention. He was in fact stabilized. He was an illegal immigrant. He was returned home. For those of you that argue we have the worst health care in the world, I would think you would applaud his being sent home.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a tragic death. It was not the fault of the employer. It was not the fault of the US. It was the fault of the Mexican health care system which should have been able to easily handle this problem (see @Seaofclouds post). This is another shameless attempt to demonize the US when anything goes awry in the world. IMHO

wundayatta's avatar

We have a moral duty to our fellow human beings that includes doing our best to assure us all access to a minimum level of health care. This is not an obligation. But it is a moral duty.

We also have a moral duty to protect ourselves from being ripped off. We have other competing moral duties.

I think it’s important to see our community as larger than those who happen to be citizens of our country. I think our community includes those who live near us as well as those who are affected by our actions either directly or indirectly. I think our moral duties to others varies according to the strength of our connection.

In the case of someone who has worked in our community and is injured so seriously, I think we probably should band together and ante up for the care of this person. It’s not clear who bears direct responsibility, so it is best to spread that responsibility as widely as possible so that the person is properly cared for. He got hurt here. He should be cared for here unless he prefers to go elsewhere.

selfe's avatar

Is something being done for his family today?

ETpro's avatar

Would you want to have to prove your citizenship before getting lifesaving medical treatment? What if you were in an auto accident, and brought to the emergency room unconcious? Should they just let you die because you can’t prove you are a legal resident alien or a ciotizen? Has this nation gone insane? If letting people die is where the Christian Right is taking us, they are neither Christian nor right.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No doubt @ETpro. Our society is more likely to care for the mans dog than the man.

Adagio's avatar

I have to agree with @wundayatta, I believe there is a moral obligation to provide assistance, whatever form is needed, if that be medical care then so be it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@ETpro He did get lifesaving treatment. It was his continued treatment, once stable, that was carried out in Mexico.

He was in the hospital in Illinois for 4 months. He was brought to a stable point where it was time for him to be moved to a facility for long term care (source). Should the hospital have had to keep him there when he was at a point where he needed the long term care, not the acute care that the hospital provides? Should they have been forced to keep in there in the hospital, holding up a bed from someone who was not medically stable? He was medically stable. The problem was that none of the long term care facilities or rehabilitation facilities would take him because of the inability to pay. I get the concern about his continued care and the hospital did find a facility to do it. They decided to send him back to Mexico so that he could be closer to his family.

According to this story, he was at the facility the hospital in Illinois sent him to for a year. They couldn’t properly care for him, but kept him anyway. They did not transfer him to a better facility until after he had suffered 2 episodes of cardiac arrest and sepsis. To me, that is the problem. They could not care for him, but did not find an appropriate setting for him to receive care in until it was too late. I’d love to know if the hospital in Illinois knew that they were not able to properly care for him before the transfer or if the facility stated that they could handle his needs.

I’m not saying this isn’t a tragic situation, just that he did receive life saving care. I don’t know how hard the hospital tried to find a facility that would provide the long term care he needed, but apparently they were having a hard time because facilities were refusing because he couldn’t pay and had no insurance. It’s a horrible situation, but one many face and part of the reason we need healthcare reform in the US. This all could have been avoided if he was covered by Workman’s comp insurance because then his expenses would have been paid. I think his employer should have been covering the cost since they were employing him illegally.

ETpro's avatar

@Seaofclouds I am addressing the question, not the individual case in the details. In my mind, asking the question as phrased makes the details a red herring intended to get the desired wrong-wing answer of No. In the specific case cited, we DID provide needed emergency and even post-emergency care. But the question clearly was, should we even bother to do that.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Seaofclouds What’s the point in spending all that time, effort, and money saving his life if you’re just going to ship him off to a place which can’t keep him alive? It would be kinder for all concerned to just put a pillow over his face and end the suffering so the resources can be allocated to someone for whom it will make a difference.

I don’t know what the laws are like where you live, but here the laws say that you do not have a legal responsibility to provide aid in an emergency. However, if you start providing aid, you are legally obligated to continue. For example, if a man falls over of a heart attack in front of you, you have a legal right to simply stand there quietly and watch him die. If you begin giving CPR, however, you must continue giving CPR until help arrives. If you withdraw your help, you could at that point be charged with manslaughter.

To save someone’s life carries a heavy moral burden. You bear responsibility for that life. In this case, “they” – in this case “they” is the State – felt obligated for whetever reason to save his life. They should not have withdrawn their support, once given.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@SmashTheState I understand what you are saying, but hospitals are not meant for long term care. They are meant for short term acute care and then the patient moves on to the next level, whether that be care in a rehabilitation facility, a long term care facility, home health care, or nothing at all. That’s how the system works here. The hospital did their duty of saving the man’s life (which is what they are required to do when someone goes into the ER in situations like this) and got him to the point that he was medically stable. It was time for him to move on from the acute care setting (the hospital) and into a facility that could provide the long term care that he needed at that point. The problem in this situation was that none of the rehabilitation facilities or long term care facilities would accept him as a patient because of his inability to pay. They do not have a legal obligation to accept a patient the way that the ER does. The hospital he was in found a facility he could go to. That facility kept him alive for a year, so it’s not that the hospital just dropped him off in the street to receive no care at all. The facility he was in in Mexico should have acknowledged when they were in over their head and had him transferred somewhere else instead of waiting until after he had 2 cardiac arrests and became septic. That’s their responsibility as his caregivers. I don’t know what the laws are like in Mexico though, so I don’t know if they had a legal requirement to do so.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@SmashTheState Also, it wasn’t the state that saved gim. It was the hospital he was taken to that did. Any hospital he would’ve been taken to would have been legally obligated to provide the life saving care he requied. The hospital did not just withdraw their care. They transferred him to another facility to take over his care because he no longer required their level of care.

Blackberry's avatar

If they have that thing called compassion or a moral compass, sure.

CWOTUS's avatar

Upon later reflection I (finally) noticed the irony of someone who is aggressively anti-nationalistic asking if “the nation” has this responsibility for providing care and payment. Apparently anti-nationalism can be suspended long enough for someone else to write a check from the national treasury.

Blackberry's avatar

@CWOTUS Essentially isn’t money all the same, regardless of where it comes from? I know this is not the reality as everyone has their own money, but we also all share money.

Edit: I also think the employer should be the one to pay, but the question said country.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m not sure where you’re going with that, @Blackberry, but cash is perfectly fungible. It doesn’t follow, though, that your money is my money, or vice versa. As the saying goes, “If I had your money I could burn mine.”

Blackberry's avatar

@CWOTUS Yeah, I think I’m confused. Lol. Disregard.

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