Protestors gain small victory against Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Photo by Steve Rhodes.
Photo by Steve Rhodes.

By Charles Rollet

Protestors demanding Chicago hospitals give spots on organ transplant lists to the undocumented and uninsured achieved a small victory yesterday, after Northwestern Memorial said it would allow a group of 14 undocumented patients to go on its list.

While activists charge Northwestern Memorial with discrimination, the hospital says patients on the organ transplant list are evaluated “regardless of citizenship or other immigration status.” Protest leader and Garrett seminary grad Father Jose Landaverde doesn’t buy it, telling THE CHRONICLE he has never met an undocumented person on the list.

It has been a hard-fought battle, with protestors demonstrating in front of Northwestern Memorial for  seven days before garnering any kind of official response. Landaverde called hospital officials “arrogant” and racist towards immigrants, saying it was “very difficult” to get their attention.

“They didn’t even want to talk to us — they called the police, the security as soon as we got there,” said Landaverde. “When we delivered the letter [for the CEO], they said, ‘I’m not gonna take this letter, if you give it to me I’m going to throw it in the garbage,’ things like that. It was very disrespectful.”

Landaverde considers Northwestern Memorial’s concession a step towards dialogue rather than a victory. Organ transplants are still prohibitively expensive for many, and Landaverde believes that as a non-profit hospital Northwestern Memorial has no right to “put money over peoples’ lives.”

“For those who are poor, those who cannot get medical assistance, we are waiting for what they’re going to do. We are not satisfied,” said Landaverde, pointing out that the hospital’s CEO, Dean Harrison, made $10 million in 2010.

“When you say you are non-profit it means you’re going to serve the community, and it doesn’t matter the consequence,” he said.

The protestors are moving away for now, and will protest in front of Christ Advocate Medical Center until negotiations begin there as well.

Overall, the situation is a complex one, Dr. David Ansell of Rush University Medical Center told the Chicago Sun-Times. He noted that while 20 percent of organs are donated by the uninsured (including undocumented people), only 1 percent go to uninsured people in need.

“These people donate the organs, but mostly don’t get access to them,” he said.


AUG 12 UPDATE: The protestors are marching back to Northwestern Memorial after an undocumented patient on its list died before receiving a kidney transplant, the Daily Northwestern reports.


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