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Should We Send Illegal Immigrants Back Home when they Seek Medical Care?

Maria Tomas, a native of Mexico, has been living in Syracuse as an illegal immigrant for five years. For most of that time Mrs. Tomas has worked in fast-food restaurants and cleaning rooms in hotels, low-paying jobs that do not provide health insurance. She supports herself and her 8-year-old daughter and is able to send money to her family in Mexico. For the past three months her asthma has worsened, but she has avoided seeking medical attention because she lacks health insurance and feels intimidated by the area medical facilities. This morning, after a night of struggling to breathe, she went to a hospital emergency department frightened and in respiratory distress. While Mrs. Tomas is waiting for the physician, an employee observes that she probably is an illegal immigrant and wonders whether she should be reported to the authorities and perhaps denied treatment.

Also: three myths about the ethics of health care reform, Paying physicians to talk about end-of-life decisions.

Read the October 2009 Bioethics in Brief newsletter

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Bioethics in Brief is a newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, committed to promoting clinical health care and health policy which is patient-centered, compassionate, and just. Opinions expressed in the newsletter are those of the authors and do not represent the position of the Center.

Bioethics in Brief