In Memoriam of Edith Rodriguez

Death is not optional. It will come to all of us sooner or later. The best that can be hoped for is to have a life that is long and a death that is as painless as possible.

Forty-three year old Edith Rodriguez lost on both of those counts. Her life was needlessly brought to a tragic end. She spent her last time on earth writhing in pain. Why? Was Edith in some desolate third world country? No, she was in the United States. Was Edith in an isolated location, far from medical help? No, she was in the Emergency Room of a California hospital. Was this tragedy caused by the fact that she might not have had health insurance? Maybe. Was the problem that she was sick while being Hispanic? Could be.

The news reports have painted a picture that is difficult to think about. Edith writhing in pain in the Emergency Room – falling out of the wheel chair, vomiting blood while lying on the cold Emergency Room floor, excruciating pain, a possible bowel perforation – the janitorial staff cleaning the floor around her limp body, while the medical staff ignored the pleas for help from her family. This is not meant to be a condemnation of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel. It is meant to be a condemnation of the system, a system that has lost any hint of humanity.

Why did no one help Edith? What mistake did Edith make that caused this tragedy? Was this a death by geography? If Edith had been almost anywhere else in the industrialized world, she probably would still be alive. She died because she was in the United States. Living in the U.S. can be dangerous to your health. This is a nation that puts profits before patients; capitalism before compassion.

Sadly, Edith is not alone. In the United States 18,000 die every year from lack of medical care. That is like having a 9/11 every 60 days. It is worse than 9/11 because these are needless deaths that we are imposing on ourselves. These deaths will continue until there is a strong grassroots movement for a universal, single payer health care system.

Think that the Democrats or the Republicans will change things? Think again. Both political parties have been bought and paid for by the lobbyists. It is the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs, and the for-profit medical centers who lurk through the halls of Congress and help write the legislation.

Health care by Wall Street standards does not work. Just ask the family of Edith Rodriguez.