Texas Hospital May Drop Illegals’ Care

AP, December 2, 2007

The University of Texas Medical Branch may stop offering cancer care to indigent and undocumented immigrants in order to cut costs.

The UTMB set aside about $12 million in this year’s $1.4 billion annual budget to treat indigent cancer patients, but that isn’t enough to meet demand, said Karen Sexton, vice president and CEO of hospitals and clinics at the medical branch.

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Its Cancer Patients Acceptance Committee has been studying the issue of turning away undocumented immigrants to alleviate some of the financial pressure, but the possibility raises obvious ethical questions, Sexton said.

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Even if the policy were changed, the medical branch would not stop treating cancer patients already in its care. Once cancer treatment begins, hospitals and doctors are ethically bound to continue.

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“If they want indigent folks to get care and want everybody in Texas to at least have a chance to have more access to medical care, then voters of Texas should step up and provide more resources,” [said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities].

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