Thomas Eric Duncan went to the hospital seeking care for a deadly, and highly contagious, disease. The hospital staff saw his race and his lack of insurance and sent him home. Eric Duncan uninsured Ebola patient, died. Now Ebola virus is spreading in the United States.
Eric Duncan Uninsured and Black with Ebola
Thomas Eric Duncan, whom friends called Eric, was a Liberian immigrant to the United States. After a recent visit to his Ebola-stricken home country, Eric came back home to America and fell sick. He must have been relieved to be covered by the world’s greatest medical system. But, tragically, unlike the other white, wealthy, insured Ebola patients who recovered in America, Eric Duncan was uninsured, so he faced closed medical doors and ultimately death in America.
This NBC-5 Dallas Fort Worth article outlines the timeline of Eric’s treatment.
It is tragic to me that Duncan is the only patient who has died of Ebola in the United States, and he is the only black patient. All the white patients received a higher standard of care. They were all hospitalized and isolated at first sign of Ebola. They all received medication, including cutting edge, experimental drugs, early in the disease process. They received blood transfusions. They all had treatments delayed or denied to Eric Duncan.
All the white patients recovered. Eric died. Racism? Not overtly, but probably a subliminal devaluing of black life versus white life. Beyond racism, though, I think there is a much clearer explanation why Duncan was not treated in a timely manner.
Thomas Eric Duncan was uninsured in America.
I have written about my personal experience of breaking my ankle while uninsured. It was horrible, but nothing compared to the hell Duncan went through. Because of his suffering, he is now a martyr at Gods’s throne, crying out for holy justice in the United States.
Standard of Care Different for the Uninsured
According to this Forbes Magazine Article, one quarter of all Texans are uninsured. These patients face closed doors and grim medical outcomes. Texas, like too many other states, has refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
When Eric Duncan showed up at the Dallas hospital, the first thing nurses would have done is ask for proof of insurance. That would determine the standard of care. Imagine the scene. The nurse looks at Eric’s chart before she steps in the room.
“Uninsured.” Big strike one.
She knows he must be poor. Strike two.
She opens the door and sees Eric. Black. Strike three.
Course of action: Stabilize and release. Quickly. Efficiently. Cheaply.
She takes his temperature. Fever: high 101. She asks about his pain. Pain: high 8/10
She writes that in the chart. He says he recently came from West Africa, but she may think that is irrelevant. Stories are still conflicted whether that was written in the chart.
The doctor comes in. He knows the patient is uninsured, therefore he knows to stabilize and release. Quickly. Efficiently. Cheaply. He declares sinusitis and sends Eric home with an antibiotic.
I’m not making assumptions about the character of the doctors and nurses. Perhaps they were kind or concerned. Almost certainly they were white and from a background of privilege that would influence how they view a poor black immigrant. Even if they were not personally racist, I’m sure they assumed that he could not afford the medical bill. Whatever their personal view on insurance, they followed hospital and Texas state protocol on treating the uninsured. Stabilize and release quickly and cheaply as possible.
Uninsured Ebola Patient Dies and Disease Spreads
Two days later, Eric goes back in an ambulance with a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea. Deathly ill. Highly contagious.
He languishes in the hospital while there are delays in testing his blood, delays in treatment. There is a supposed shortage in experimental drugs. Who knows if this is true. Uninsured patients are not profitable for pharmaceutical companies and expensive drugs.
Three excruciating days later, Eric Duncan dies. His soul flies to the heavenly dimension. There is no requirement for insurance in heaven, and he is attended by the highest healing touch of the angels. His family mourns on earth and joins him in pleading with God for justice.
Now we see the dread disease spreading in Dallas. One nurse, Nina Phan, is already in isolation with Ebola. She is insured and receiving the highest standard of treatment. The state is even taking care of her dog, for fear the dog might be an Ebola carrier.
The dog is being treated at a higher standard of care than Eric Duncan was. Only in America is a dog’s life valued more than an uninsured man, a black man.
Today there was news that another nurse has tested positive for Ebola, and she recently took a plane flight between Dallas and Cleveland. Every passenger on that plane was exposed, possibly spreading the disease all over the United States.
This is tragic, frightening, and just. This is holy justice. Because America has refused to offer medical care to the uninsured as a human right, the country is reaping the consequences of its heartlessness. A contagious disease is a natural consequence of refusing to treat people. Eric Duncan is a martyr, but hopefully his blood is not in vain. There is still time to repent and change our ways. We can stop this disease if we throw open the hospital doors to anyone needing treatment. Love and compassion will conquer pain and disease.
I pray our nation wakes up. Rest in peace, Eric Duncan. You are no longer uninsured and facing the heartlessness of a system set up against the poor. Enjoy heaven.