March 18, 2009

Cancer Identity Theft

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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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