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Hospital refuses help to dying mother

by Izzy Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 04:53:28 PM EST

They refused to treat the woman and ignored her, even when she was in agony and couldn't walk.  They ignored her husband's pleas, even while she was collapsed on the floor from the pain.  When she vomited up her own blood, the janitor came out and mopped around her as though she were a piece of furniture.

Edith Isabel Rodriguez was a 43-year-old mother and grandmother.  She died May 9 of a perforated bowel at the emergency room of King-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles.  But let's face it -- people die all the time, and her medical condition, while serious, is not uncommon.  What's more unusual in this case is the seeming callous disregard with which the hospital treated her.  Or didn't treat her.  

Desperate, her boyfriend called 911 from the pay phone outside the ER.  Eight minutes later, another patient called 911 begging for someone, anyone, to help Edith Rodriguez.  Finally her boyfriend found someone interested in Edith -- the police.  They arrested the dying woman on a warrant, assuring her boyfriend they'd give her medical treatment.

There's no doubt Edith Rodriguez died of her condition as she was being wheeled from the ER to the police car, but she did not have to die.  Edith Rodriguez was killed by something else.


It would be normal to suspect our broken health care system, but the fact is that this woman did have access to medical care.  She didn't die because she couldn't get care.  She didn't die because she waited too long.  She went to the hospital three times in the days leading up to her death.

It could be argued that racism, classism and poverty played a part in killing Edith Rodriquez.  King-Harbor Hospital serves the Watts area.  It was in fact built as a response to a study showing lack of healthcare in the community was a contributing factor to the Watts Riots.  The hospital treats 49,000 emergency patients a year.  In 2003, it handled over 2,300 gunshot wounds.  

As with inner-city schools, it is underfunded while a fortune has been spent studying it.  In the wake of this and other incidents, there is mounting pressure to close the hospital, leaving the communities it serves without medical care.

Listen to the tapes of the 911 calls and you'll hear the boyfriend speaking Spanish through an interpreter.  "My wife is dying and the nurses don't want to help her out,"

Listen to the second call.  You'll hear what sounds like an older African-American woman speaking with a white male dispatcher.  You'll hear the voice of prejudice, bigotry, a closed mind -- the refusal to believe, listen, or reason -- this is the brick wall that minorities and the poor try to tell people about and that's so hard to explain.  

Dispatcher No. 2: What's your emergency?

Caller: There's a lady on the ground here in the emergency room at Martin Luther King and they are overlooking her, claiming that she's been discharged, and she's definitely sick and there's a guy that's ignoring her.

Dispatcher: Well, what do you want me to do for you, ma'am?

Caller: Send an ambulance out here to take her somewhere where she can get medical help.

Dispatcher: OK, you're at the hospital, ma'am. You have to contact them.

Caller: They have a problem, they won't help her.

 Dispatcher: Well, you know, they're the medical professionals, OK? You're already at a hospital.

Caller: But you can still send an ambulance if that's my request.

Dispatcher: Well, if you're not pleased with the result you're getting from them, you know, we can't....

Caller: It's another patient. I'm not pleased with the result that I'm getting from 'em but it's another patient that's sicker, and did you know she's down, all down on the ground....

Dispatcher: If you have a problem with the quality of the hospital, OK, you have to contact the hospital supervisors, OK, and let them know. The police have nothing to do with that, ma'am. This line, 911, is used for emergency purposes only.

Caller: This is an emergency.

Dispatcher: Life-threatening emergencies. It is not! OK? If you want to call us back on our business line, I'll give you the number.

The dispatcher informed the woman it wasn't a criminal matter, to which she replied that it would be if the patient died.  The LA Times says the call ended on this hostile note:

"May God strike you too for acting the way you just acted," the frustrated caller told the dispatcher, just before 2 a.m. on May 9.

 "No. Negative ma'am, you're the one," the dispatcher responded before disconnecting.

As bad as that is, as difficult as it is to hear or comprehend, the 911 dispatchers are not the ones who killed Edith Rodriquez.  In essence, they were correct -- Rodriquez was at a hospital and professionals were right there.  Neither did underfunding or overwork have anything to do with the death.  Rodriguez did not die unnoticed or because of a mistake or a long wait.  It's clear she had been seen and treatment was not delayed, but refused.

So what did kill Edith Rodriguez?  What can account for the seemingly inexplicable actions of the emergency room nurses and workers?  What would make people show such indifference to the sufferings of a fellow human being?

I suspect Edith Rodriguez is yet another casualty of the Drug War.  Collateral damage, to the DEA's way of thinking.  The clues are all right there in the articles.

The Drug Enforcement Agency has been very busy these past few years, expanding the Drug War front into the medical community.  Churning out propaganda and arresting doctors.  The DEA advises, practically orders, medical personnel to act just like those involved in the Rodriguez case acted.  

The DEA gives out pamphlets detailing signs of abuse and instructs doctors and nurses that "You have a legal and ethical  responsibility to uphold the law and to help protect society from drug abuse."  That may sound innocuous, but what they are telling our medical professionals it to withhold treatment for people they suspect of fulfilling the DEA's criteria.

You'd think that this criteria would be pretty strict.  Instead, the DEA is creating a new Bogeyman -- the "drug-seeking" patient.  Out of the 10 common drug-seeking behaviors listed, 9 are open to interpretation and could have explanations either entirely innocent or due to the patient being in pain.

Unusual behavior in the waiting  room;

Assertive personality, often  demanding immediate action;

May show unusual knowledge of  controlled substances and/or gives medical history with textbook symptoms OR gives evasive or vague answers to questions regarding medical history;

Reluctant or unwilling to provide reference information. Usually has no regular doctor and often no health insurance;

Will often request a specific controlled drug and is reluctant to try a different drug;

Generally has no interest in diagnosis - fails to keep appointments for further diagnostic tests or refuses to see another practitioner for consultation;

May exaggerate medical problems and/or simulate symptoms;

May exhibit mood disturbances, suicidal thoughts, lack of impulse control, thought disorders, and/or sexual dysfunction;

Only the last item on the list -- "cutaneous signs of drug abuse, skin tracks and related scars" -- is unequivocal.

The DEA further describes these patients' MOs, all 12 of which could have alternate innocent explanations.  They include wanting to be seen right away, coming in after hours, asking for an early prescription refill, exhibiting symptoms that may make your doctor feel sympathy, exhibiting anxiety, stating that things like aspirin are not helping you, and not having a primary care giver.

Suspicious conditions include uterine pain, toothache, back pain, abdominal pain, or headache.  Any of which can and should be treated as a red flag, according to the DEA.  Combined with more than one or two things on the lists, these things trigger the legal obligation to "uphold the law" and keep drugs out of the community.

This propaganda by the DEA has been successful in scaring the bejesus out of medical professionals to the point that study after study shows that US hospitals widely under-treat pain.  The DEA's "Red Flags" of "Drug Seeking Behaviors" are widely known and discussed by doctors and nurses.  Tagging charts with code words is commonplace.  Rarely do the charts contain the accusation "DSB" outright, but rather patients have notations of "difficult" and the word "complains" is used frequently.  In one survey, 67.6% of emergency nurses admitted using the term "DSB" in conversation with other caregivers, but 93.2% denied using it in charting.

Was Edith Rodriguez a victim of this kind of profiling?  I believe she was.  She had abdominal pain, flag;  she visited the emergency room multiple times, flag;  she was assertive (one of the nurses described her as "demanding"), flag;  she asked for immediate action, flag;  she arrived after business hours, flag.

We don't know how many other categories she inadvertently fell into -- did she have a primary care giver?  lack insurance?  did she tell them aspirin wasn't working or ask for an early refill?  did she seem sufficiently interested in the diagnosis, or was she only expressing interest in getting relief?  was she vague and confused?  or too specific?  was her behavior unusual?

Clearly, the ER workers didn't believe she was sick -- they thought something else was going on.  A nurse described her as a "complainer."  When the police arrested Rodriguez, a nurse said "Thanks a lot, officers.  This is her third time here."   Perhaps they suspected her of "feigning" or "exaggerating" symptoms as they coldly watched this mother of three writhe in pain.  

Perhaps they'd written Edith off as just a drug addict, undeserving of humanity or respect, as she lay dying on their floor.

Crossposted from Unbossed.

Display:
Here's a link to the coverage on Good Morning, America.  The video plays portions of the 911 calls.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3273239&page=1

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 05:05:47 PM EST
I've been hearing about this...  

It brings back memories of something that happened in my neighborhood about 10 years ago.  A kid was shot right outside a hospital ER, and he bled to death because the hospital's policy was to not go outside and bring him in.  

http://www.cnn.com/US/9805/18/unhelpful.hospital/

The hospital closed shortly after that.  It has a really creep vibe about it too...

(FWIW, it's also the only shooting in the area I have heard about the entire time I have lived here.)

Not sure I totally agree about the Drug War though.  It makes more sense than the alternative explanation of unimaginabe incompetence.  But sometimes things really are just senseless...

And have you been to an ER lately?  Or to any healthcare provider?  Don't you know that all people who get sick in America are treated like chronic complainers and welfare recipients?  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 05:14:32 PM EST
Yeah, I think you're pretty much right, but I also think my Drug War premise is correct in this situation -- she was seen, she was treated.  The articles state over and over that she'd been seen 3 times and discharged previously with pain medication.  

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 05:23:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The war on drugs looks like it is a war on the sick.

I have Kidney Stones occasionally.

I typically show 4 to 5 of the common drug seeking characteristics when entering a hospital. Seeking drugs? Damn right I am! Time - surprisingly it is usually around 10pm to midnight. I usually don't sit down in the waiting room, but pace slowly. While it is not intentional, I draw attention to myself. I am very quickly moved to the front of the queue as I elicit sympathy from the surrounding medical personnel. Demerol please. I have kidney stones. Sharp cutting pain here. I've had kidney stones before. The pain is familiar. Forget the CAT scan I'm not interested. What's it gong to tell me that I don't already know. (Ultrasound is ok.)

(Actually the hospital usually has my wife complete the admittance forms while they give me drugs.)


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 08:48:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're lucky you haven't been flagged already!

Also lucky you haven't gotten a doctor who doesn't believe in painkillers and then gone to a different doctor -- that's a crime.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 08:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm also lucky that I am not seeking medical treatment in the US. :)

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 09:36:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OH!  That's right! ...Canada?  I can't believe we haven't declared you guys in "non-compliance" with drug policies and seized your assets yet -- you sell codeine over the counter!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 09:50:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last Americans we had up here we sent back home with an extra jumbo bottle of 222's (asa + codeine). It's not quite over the counter. You have to ask the pharmacist for it and then they give it to you. Seems a bit pointless.

As far as seizing our assets I thought we had already agreed to give you all our water, oil, minerals... Did we miss something? I'm sure we can fix that in no time.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 10:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The articles state over and over that she'd been seen 3 times and discharged previously with pain medication.

And here's something else that's bothering me.  If she'd been seen three times complaining of the same problem, why wasn't someone looking for the underlying cause of her abdominal pain instead of just giving her pain meds?

Because that's exactly what happened to my sister's former student.  Three trips to the emergency room.  Three times sent home with "gas pains."  Fourth trip to the emergency room:  sent home with a diagnosis of stage 4 tissue and bone cancer, which had already metastisized.  It killed her in less than a year.  She was 12.

My sister says her student died of poverty.  Of not having her pain taken seriously because she was poor and black.

And it's not entirely the fault of the doctors who saw her -- as my sister points out, when you get your medical care entirely from the ER, there isn't going to be a lot of consistency and followup.  Getting acute treatment in an emergency room is no subsitute for having a doctor.

When I was barely an adult, 22 or so, I was living in a really poor, mainly black neighborhood.  There was a crack house next door, and first time I heard gunfire in the alley behind my house, I went and hid in the bathtub because I didn't want to get hit by a stray bullet.  (The idea seems a bit quaint to me now.  I can barely remember being that person.)

At first, I thought most of my neighbors were either really old, or really sick or something, because I kept seeing ambulances on my block.  No sirens, ever, they'd just pull up with lights flashing and sit there, and eventually the paramedics would emerge from some house or another with one of my neighbors on a stretcher, and they'd drive off eastward, toward the public hospital.

It took me a while to realize that the paramedics were essentially my neighborhood's primary care physicians.  When you're poor and don't have insurance, you don't go to the doctor until you're so sick that you need an ambulance, and then Medicaid pays for it.

Our medical system is criminal.  We should all be ashamed.  This woman who died on that emergency room floor -- her death is on all of our heads, because we have allowed this criminal healthcare system not just to continue, but to flourish.  Yes, our politicians and insurance companies have failed us, but that should be no suprise; they are, as always, more concerned with their own interests than with ours.  We have also failed ourselves, because we have not demanded that it change.  While the insurance companies and politicians and even the doctors have acted aggressively to protect and defend their interests, We The People have failed to protect our own.  And each other.

Health care ought not be a privilege.  And yet we, when we see things treated as privileges that ought to be rights (and it is not just health care) we fixate on obtaining those privileges rather than demanding that they be acknowledged as rights.

I forwarded the LA Times article to my family, who have and will react with the expected horror and anger, as I'm sure will many other comfortable middle-class families.  But, as terrible as this death is, as horrifying as Ms. Rodriguez's treatment (or lack of it) was, it is not unique, and as comments in this thread reflect, it is not even terribly surprising.  As long as people like me and my family and the millions of others like us sit there watching, horrified, like rubberneckers at a car accident, without demanding change, we are just as guilty of killing Ms. Rodriguez as any of those doctors and nurses in the ER.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 07:05:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm with you 100% on your analysis of this sad incident. This kind of poor medical treatment happens over and over in hospital ERs in the US.  I could tell you similar stories involving my own family - the only difference is that we are middle class, speak English, are fully insured, and fortunate to still be alive.  

Still, every time I hear of something like this, I find it difficult to believe they were totally unwilling or incapable of looking beyond this woman's symptoms to find the cause of the pain.  It breaks my heart to read about this kind of treatment.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 08:43:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Imagine my surprise when I'm watching CNN's AC 360 and this is the first thing comes up (Paris Hilton came 30 min later). Finally, we begin the day with a story worth telling and the reporting time. We have to learn from this and come out smarter.
by pelcan on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 07:02:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
one brown person at a time...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 06:21:49 PM EST
there's almost certainly a gender/power element to the story in addition to race, class, and the insanity of the US "war on drugs" [when are they gonna get around to Pfizer?]... male med professionals all too often disregard female patients' reports of pain or other symptoms, dismissing them as "whining" or "dramatising" or some kind of hypochondria.  it's another facet of the trad patriarchal dismissal of women as "excitable, emotional, overreacting," etc.  ...unlike those stolid reliable males -- football fans, for example? -- whose unemotionality and decorum are unvarying :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 06:27:55 PM EST
I'm so glad you brought that up!  I almost mentioned it, but I'd already mentioned all the other stuff and didn't want to get sidetracked.  But I think you're completely right.  I've experienced it in my own healthcare stuff.  Right now, both my parents are having health issues and I've been taking them to all the appointments and trips to the hospital.  The difference between how they treat my mom and my dad is readily apparent.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 06:44:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just a gender thing. I've been banned - no, really - from a local NHS dental access clinic for making the mistake of taking an active interest in my treatment. (In this case it was trying to make sure that a crown which had fallen off wasn't going to abscess at the root - which it subsequently did because of delayed treatment, and which now needs surgery.)

Apparently I'm a risk to the staff there, because I'll go on a violent, possibly drug-induced rampage.

Also, I can only be treated by a male dentist.

I'm now signed on with a dentist in a different county, who - inexplicably - hasn't needed to hire bouncers whenever I visit.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic because frontline healthcare has to be one of the harshest jobs going, so some false positives are only to be expected - even if in this case that means labelling a drug-free vegetarian teetotaller whose last street brawl happened at age 7 as a social risk.

But still. The real problem is the lack of NHS dentistry in this county. I made the mistake of assuming the NHS dental care meant that NHS care would be available. But in practice there almost isn't any, and what used to be a free community service has been reduced to emergency-only status, and even that's only available for very limited periods.

I'd go private but it was a private dentist who caused the problem in the first place by 'improving' a crown that didn't need his attention - possibly just so he could pad out his bottom line. (His surgery has closed now.)

As usual, the underlying issue is our old favourite about greed being good, and the culture of abuse that it's based on. Dehumanising people for financial gain and/or to minimise 'costs' like social services is fascism, pure and simple.

If the system doesn't model empathy and does model scarcity, then scarcity and patient abuse - up to and including preventable death - become inevitable.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 09:23:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The main findings were that, compared to men, women had greater levels of pain intensity and more AIDS-related physical symptoms, and were more likely to have their pain undertreated. Thus, being female was a predictive factor for undertreatment of pain. footnote

Despite national and international guidelines for its management, many patients with pain are not prescribed an analgesic appropriate to the severity of their pain (Cleeland et al., 1994). Evidence suggests that patients in minority groups may have an even greater risk for undertreatment of pain (Anderson et al., 2000; Cleeland et al., 1997). [...] Pain has to be appreciated before it can be treated. In addition, patients seen at centers that treated predominantly minority patients were three times more likely than those treated elsewhere to have inadequate pain management (Cleeland et al., 1997). Other factors that predicted inadequate pain treatment included age of 70 years or older, female sex, and better performance status. [...]  footnote

The problem is not just in the US:

Many women reported that they did not bother to tell their doctor about their problems
because they anticipated an adverse or a non-helpful response. Of those who did talk to
their doctor, especially when they related their side effects to tubal ligation, the
overwhelming majority were dissatisfied with the responses they received. Overall
women appeared to be most unhappy about not being believed in relation to their side
effects; being told that their symptoms were all in their minds; or that the problems they
experienced were individual and idiosyncratic.
Many women were concerned that when they reported abnormal or different menstrual
patterns that caused pain, discomfort or inconvenience, their doctor did not believe there
was a problem. Disillusioned by their doctors' lack of understanding of their symptoms,
they were often told that side effects as a result of their surgery were non-existent - `old
wives tales'. This is in spite a plethora of side-effects for tubal ligation reported in the
scientific literature which included; changed menstrual patterns, period and mid-cycle
pain, perimenopausal symptoms and increased risk of hysterectomy. (Birdsall et al
1994; Goldhaber et al 1993; Peterson et al 1996; Vivanathan & Wyshak 2000).
The consequences of doctors not accepting the knowledge women had of their own
bodies as `real' sometimes meant that symptoms became very severe before they were
attended to, as in the case of undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy occurring
outside the uterus usually in the fallopian tubes).
footnote

Just one of many reasons why women prefer female ob/gyns especially and female doctors in general;  though there are of course "boys' club" female practitioners who feel it is more "professional" to treat female patients with masculinist mistrust and condescension, thankfully they are relatively few.

See also The DEA War on Pain Doctors  but to be fair I must say 'consider the source':  a drug peddling web site :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 10:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I... it's not that I don't know what to say, there are just too many things to say, and they're overwhelming me.

I've deleted three mostly-written comments already because nothing I can say seems to do justice to this injustice.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 07:21:34 PM EST
Thanks for commenting, though -- it's good to hear I'm not the only one.  I felt the same way yesterday as I kept reading and reading -- stunned, bewildered, speechless -- then I got angry and started writing.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 07:41:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At some level, when someone starts throwing up blood for example, you leave the relm of this person could be a drug abuser and enter into an unequivical medical emergency. At that point the staff effectively participated in her murder without the shelter of lame excuses.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 08:27:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno.  They let Billie Holliday die handcuffed to a gurney.  No one seems to care about suffering when it comes to addicts.  Now it's not only something that's done, it's actually illegal to alleviate an addict's suffering, even if something else is wrong with them.

That said, I'm not saying this woman was an addict -- it's reprehensible how they treated her.  The throwing up blood just goes to show how difficult it is to counter belief with reality.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 08:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it a bad sign that I'm not surprised it happened?

That sounds cold, but there's a part of me that's just not surprised.

by lychee on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 09:03:58 PM EST
It is probably a bad sign, but not about you.  I was stunned reading, but not really surprised either.  Kind of like you'd feel if you got punched by a violent asshole -- it's a shock, but not a mystery.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 09:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also part of the privatised healthcare mindset.

To believe in non-socialised medicine you have to believe in some level that some people (poor people, people w/o money) do not deserve health care.

To believe that any suffering or ill person does not deserve and should not receive health care (palliative care at the very least) is, ideologically, the key to allowing a person to die bleeding and in pain in a hospital corridor;  all you have to do is categorise them as undeserving, and all obligation  of solidarity and compassion is denied and avoided.  The fault is transferred from the uncaring person who refuses to give aid, to the dying person.

Privatised medicine is not only a license but a directive to health care practitioners to cauterise their own empathy, in much the same way that field surgeons in a battle zone or first aid responders in a disaster area have to numb their empathy in order to do effective triage.  But there is no excuse for this kind of triage in the wealthiest nation on Earth...

Deamonte needed his tooth pulled, a procedure that was estimated to cost $80. But his mother, Alyce Driver, had no health insurance for her children. She believes their Medicaid coverage lapsed early this year because of a bureaucratic foul-up, perhaps because paperwork was mailed to a homeless shelter after they had left. In any event, it would have been difficult for Ms. Driver to find an oral surgeon willing to treat a Medicaid patient.

    Untreated, the pain in Deamonte's tooth grew worse. He was taken to a hospital emergency room, where he was given medication for pain and sinusitis and sent home.

    What started as a toothache now became a nightmare. Bacteria from the abscess had spread to Deamonte's brain. The child was in agony, and on Feb. 25 he died.

[...] There's plenty of give in America's glittering $13 trillion economy. What's the sense of being the richest nation on the planet if you can't even afford to keep your children healthy and alive?

 footnote

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 10:27:48 PM EST
The hospital sounds like a true house of horrers. More about King-Harbor hospital:

http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2005/public-service/works/

In 1994, Aleta Clemons, a 42-year-old woman who went to King/Drew for a hysterectomy, was infused with blood that had tested positive for the AIDS virus. But no one had bothered to check the test results.

In 1998, Blanca Maldonado, 52, drank a glass of tissue preservative, a poisonous chemical mixture accidentally left on her hospital bed stand by a doctor in training. She staggered to the closest nursing station, pleaded for help and died a short time later

Three King/Drew patients, all hooked up to monitors, died last year after nurses failed to notice their declining vital signs, state and federal inspectors found.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 10:53:28 PM EST
The LA Times won the pulitzer for the series about it.  The LA Weekly did a feature on a man who needed surgery for a brain tumor and was left in the waiting room for four days.  In the wake of this, they've been examined, had changes of staff, and had million-dollar studies done.  There is now a public hue and cry, calling for it to be shut down.

The problem is that the alternative is that there won't be any healthcare in that area.  The hospital is basically working triage in what is a war zone.  They're probably overworked, understaffed, and underfunded.  As I said, they treat 49,000 emergencies per year and had over 2,300 gunshot wounds in 2003.

They used to have 200+ beds and be able to treat traumas.  In the wake of all this negative reporting, they've been cut down to only 40-some beds and had the staff reduced, with traumas being sent to the also-overburdened LA County hospital.  Since March, their federal funding has been cut off and they'll go bankrupt in August if it's not reinstated.

The people in the community do not want their hospital closed.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 14th, 2007 at 11:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The hospital is basically working triage in what is a war zone.

That's why those who should be facing murder charges over what happened have nothing to do with the hospital itself. I will not pass judgment on the people that have to (literally) clean up the bodies left in the wake of our nightmare medical system.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 01:48:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the diary Izzy - must have been hard to write. I am speechless and at the same time I am not surprised at all - just sad that this is even possible. Maybe the fundamentalist are right - there is no evolution, it looks more like a devolution.
by Fran on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 12:15:34 AM EST
Evolution doesn't mean progress. t means change.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 02:09:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Progress is a battle which must be won every day.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 06:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been following this story a bit. Izzy, your treatment of this topic, especially with the addition of information on drug seeking behaviour makes your version better than what I have read in the online US press.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:21:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Drug Enforcement Agency has been very busy these past few years, expanding the Drug War front into the medical community.  Churning out propaganda and arresting doctors.  The DEA advises, practically orders, medical personnel to act just like those involved in the Rodriguez case acted.

Why are doctors putting up with this shit?

This propaganda by the DEA has been successful in scaring the bejesus out of medical professionals to the point that study after study shows that US hospitals widely under-treat pain.  The DEA's "Red Flags" of "Drug Seeking Behaviors" are widely known and discussed by doctors and nurses.  Tagging charts with code words is commonplace.  Rarely do the charts contain the accusation "DSB" outright, but rather patients have notations of "difficult" and the word "complains" is used frequently.  In one survey, 67.6% of emergency nurses admitted using the term "DSB" in conversation with other caregivers, but 93.2% denied using it in charting.

Why don't doctors and nurses speak up against what is patently nonsense?

By the way, inadequate palliative treatment is one of the main signs of utter lack of compassion in our society and in the medical profession.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 07:11:51 AM EST
By the way, inadequate palliative treatment is one of the main signs of utter lack of compassion in our society and in the medical profession.

I must say that Mexico does much better in this regard than the US and, I suspect, Europe.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:00:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now I am curious. Do you have a link on Mexico's palliative care?

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Fri Jun 15th, 2007 at 09:09:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, just anecdotal info, owing to 40 years of experience visiting and living there, and the fact that my father-in-law was a doctor there for 50 years.  For example: Several members of our family have had to deal with cancer over the past few years and we have found the doctors to be very compassionate throughout treatment.  My wife has had a severe arthritic condition with spinal and nerve issues for a number of years and we are able to buy all of her medicine there or a fraction of what it would cost here. We have had problems obtaining similar treatment in the US (red tape). Since many non-narcotic medicines are available OTC there, that doesn't speak directly to the issue of pallative care, but we know of others dealing with more severe uncurable problems who have been able to obtain adequate pain relief medicinal care through their doctors.  People who can afford medicines either due to income or through the national social security medical system are treated very well.

I would be somewhat surprized if there were a national data source for pallative care, but individual hospitals might have something.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 09:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this diary, Izzy.

What a horror story!

I have tried to respond several times in more detail, but when I look at my posts, diaries and comments I seem so negative lately, I question my own frame of reference. So I will keep my tales of this sort to myself until it seems that they can perhaps become a part of a learning moment- perhaps can help someone. After all, that's the only positive outcome of an incident of this sort- if we can learn from it.
Bon Courage!

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 05:47:59 AM EST


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 05:50:01 PM EST


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