Proyecto Visión 21

Should mothers and children suffer for ideological reasons?

A Mexican mother recently received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from a hospital in southern Colorado as a compensation for the irreversible brain damage suffered by the daughter of the mother, when she went to that hospital to give birth.

According to court documents, it seems that nurses attending the mother did not properly read the vital signs of the baby and, therefore, they did not notice there was a risk of the baby experiencing lack of oxygen.

When the situation was finally detected, 15 times the nurses asked the doctor in charge of the procedures to perform a C-section, so they could save the baby. However, according to the lawsuit presented by the mother, the doctor, for reasons still unclear, decided not to do it. So, the mother suffered and the baby was born with brain damage.

I read the story several times and I was convinced that neither the nurses’ actions nor the doctor’s decisions were related to the fact that the mother was a Hispanic undocumented, immigrant, whose husband has been deported and with limited financial resources.

I was sure the whole situation was only an unfortunate and tragic mistake. After all, doctors and nurses are professionals who promised to do no harm. Therefore, neither the socio-economic situation nor the immigration status of the mother could have been a factor in the decisions made by health care professionals.

But then I met an African-American family therapist who works with teenage single mothers. In talking with her, I discovered that my analysis of the incident at a hospital in Colorado only revealed my naïveté and my deep ignorance of what really happens to minority, low-income mothers when they go to a hospital or health center.

The therapist shared the case of a 16-year old girl who got pregnant. When she went to the hospital to have her baby, she suffered during many hours without receiving any kind of medication. According to the therapist, the doctor then told the 16-year old mother that the lack of painkillers was intentional, so she will remember the pain and, therefore, she will “probably not have more babies.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So, I asked the therapist, a professional with many decades of experience in several states, if I should understand that there are doctors who allow minority mothers to experience pain in order to “teach them a lesson,” so to speak.

The therapist looked at me and with her eyes, not with words, asked me if I was from another planet and I was just visiting earth.

Then, I remember the story by Hope Yen (Associated Press), published on July 15, 2011. The story says, “(B)abies born in the United States, rather than newly arrived Mexican immigrants, are driving most of the fast growth in the Latino population.”

Did the doctor in Colorado see an opportunity to “send a message” to undocumented mothers? For the sake of ethics and societal good, I hope that was not the case.

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