On Monday, a group in Chicago began its seventh day of demonstrations at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where members protested undocumented immigrants’ lack of access to organ transplants.
Forty protestors rallied on Sunday with 14 undocumented Mexican immigrants, who have been on a hunger strike for the last week in an attempt to garner a meeting with hospital representatives to discuss their plight. Their request has been denied so far.
“We’re asking for help,” said Blanca Gomez, a 23-year-old member of the group in need of a kidney transplant. “I go to dialysis three times a week. I’m not going off the hunger strike until I get on the transplant list.”
The 14 undocumented immigrants participating in the hunger strike are all Chicago residents in need of a liver or kidney transplant. However, their immigrant status bars them from access to federal health care. Without it, they say they are unable to afford the high transplant costs.
“These are people who are uninsurable, and it creates an ethical dilemma of doing the right thing against the extreme cost of doing a transplant,” said Dr. David Ansell, chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center.
Undocumented immigrants are able to register to be organ donors, but are unable to receive organ transplants through federal health care. A study conducted in 2008 by the American Medical Association stated that in a 20-year period, noncitizens of the United States donated about 2.5 percent of organs, but received less than 1 percent.
Interestingly, the New York Times reported that government-provided dialysis costs approximately $75,000 per year, while a kidney transplant would cost about $100,000 as a flat fee, which suggests that allowing undocumented immigrants to receive transplants instead of undergoing dialysis year after year would ultimately save federal funds.