Published on: January 17, 2013

The Undocumented Unwell

Jonathan H. Marks, “The Undoc­u­ment­ed Unwell,” Hast­ings Cen­ter Report 43, no. 1 (2013): 10–11. DOI: 10.1.002/hast.124

Abstract: Nell Tou­s­saint is not well. In recent years, she has been diag­nosed with uter­ine fibroids, uncon­trolled hyper­ten­sion, nephrot­ic syn­drome, poor­ly con­trolled dia­betes, hyper­lipi­demia, and a pul­monary embolism. She also suf­fers from decreased mobil­i­ty, short­ness of breath, and-per­haps not sur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en her oth­er ail­ments-anx­i­ety. Tou­s­saint is an indi­gent undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grant liv­ing in Cana­da who has been try­ing to secure med­ical cov­er­age in the fed­er­al courts. In the process, she has sac­ri­ficed the med­ical con­fi­den­tial­i­ty that most of us ordi­nar­i­ly enjoy.

Tou­s­saint first came to Cana­da from Grena­da as a vis­i­tor in 1999 and remained after the term of her visa expired. At first, she earned enough to sus­tain a liv­ing, but in 2006, her health began to dete­ri­o­rate, and she was no longer able to work. Although she has received some med­ical care since then, it has been spo­radic, on an emer­gency basis, and at great expense. When Tou­s­saint applied for med­ical health cov­er­age under Canada’s Inter­im Med­ical Health Pro­gram, which cov­ers the cost of emer­gency med­ical care for legal­ly admit­ted indi­gents, her appli­ca­tion was reject­ed. She chal­lenged the deci­sion in fed­er­al court on the grounds that her right to life and secu­ri­ty of the per­son under the Cana­di­an Char­ter had been vio­lat­ed and that the denial of cov­er­age was dis­crim­i­na­to­ry.

Suggested citation

Jonathan H. Marks, "The Undocumented Unwell," Undocumented Patients web site (Garrison, NY: The Hastings Center), originally published on: January 17, 2013. Available at http://undocumentedpatients.org/commentary/the-undocumented-unwell/