March 18, 2009

Cancer Identity Theft


In my post from yesterday, I asked the question What would you do for health insurance?  Lie, cheat, steal?  This weekend, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Mariana de la Torre, a 28-year-old cervical cancer patient.  With no money, and as an illegal immigrant with no access to government benefits, she used a stolen identity to procure medical treatment.  The identity was that of a woman serving a sentence in a Texas prison.  Mariana used the woman’s name and social security number to obtain Medicaid benefits and other aid.

The legal and ethical implications of this story are many, and although this sounds like a trite, PollyAnnic riff, I cannot help but think Who cares where this woman is from, and to what government she has or has not paid taxes?  She is a human being with cervical cancer that has chewed its way through her body.  She is a young adult cancer patient and dying.  Shouldn’t health care be a basic human right?

I also thought What if I were the woman in prison whose identity was stolen?  Identity theft is usually a thorn, but in this instance, I suspect I’d be glad I was helping someone out.

In the cancer community, there is so much talk about fighting to stay alive, and fighting for survival, but what if the fight involves illegal actions?  Cancer patients pride ourselves on never giving up.  What would you do if you were in Mariana’s shoes?

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  1. Cathy Bueti Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 5:52 AM

    Wow Kairol, what a story! I think this situation speaks to the state of healthcare in this country. I agree with you that health care should be a basic human right! The fact that she is a human being should be first and foremost but seems that is lost. I can understand the great lengths she has gone to. I am not saying it is right but she is fighting for her life.

  2. Holly Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    Interesting irony. A woman who probably came to this country with hopes of bettering her life and here she ends up fighting for it on a whole different level. Everyone wishes she could have survived using legal means, but I can’t fault her for doing whatever it takes to live. And by chance or design she chose an identity that does minimal harm to any individual. We are paying for a failed healthcare system on so many levels already- disability, welfare, fraud, and so on. Why can’t we use that money proactively so that people are not forced to compromise their health and integrity?

  3. karen Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    I think that just because you are sick or even on your death bed doesn’t give you the right to be a criminal.

    I know how horrible our health care system is, I have felt the effects of it. And I also know what it’s like to have my identity stolen.

  4. christina Says:
    March 21st, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    I have heard about these kinds of things happening. I must admit, I am conflicted about this one. Would I lie, cheat and steal… No, I wouldn’t. Would I THINK about it – Yes. I think that moral character is still the most important thing we have. Cancer can’t take that away from us unless we let it. Desperate people do desperate things, however. I cannot fault her decision. I do think that this kind of action creates more problems than it solves though, as was born out in this case.

  5. pk Says:
    March 21st, 2009 at 4:51 PM

    Do survivors have a right to do what it takes to survive? I challenge any cancer virgin to choose accepting denial of healthcare and most likely dying in 2 years or less, versus very likely living more than 5-50 more years of your life. I don’t think most ethics professors would find fault in choosing a likelihood of survival. The choice you can make is to have good health care coverage or be able to live with a prospect of this kind of a devil’s choice in what is still the richest country in the world. I say, more power to survivors. To survive cancer, one must and does take extraordinary measures; and most of these involve sacrifices we make of our own bodies; to endure treatments that come with a wide range of extreme costs. I’ve been in support groups where members pooled any extra unused dosages of (very expensive) meds and made them available to uninsured members through a willing oncology nurse.

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