Immigration reform and healthcare reform are two of the most polarizing ongoing political debates in recent American history. In the absence of federal immigration reform and in the presence of a new federal healthcare system – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – which requires legal status to obtain health insurance, there is now opportunity for everyone’s healthcare situations to improve except those of the undocumented immigrant. What are the ethical implications of excluding this large segment of the population from the prospect of improving their healthcare situations?
On November 24th, Erick Munoz discovered his 33-year-old wife, Marlise Munoz, unconscious on the floor of their Texas home. A tragic consequence of a pulmonary embolism, Marlise was rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital and declared brain dead in the emergency room. She was moved to the intensive care unit where she remained on life support for six weeks against the wish of her husband, who maintained she would not wish to live in this incapacitated condition if she were given the choice. Significantly complicating the situation and simultaneously launching the case to the forefront of national debate, however, was the fact that Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her clinically diagnosed brain death.
Justice is notoriously difficult to get right. Often, injustice prevails through simple ignorance or willful blindness. Even the best-laid plans may go horrifically awry through inadequate attention to complex social realities. In a course entitled “Health Disparities and Social Inequalities” taught by Dr. Celia B. Fisher at Fordham University, we utilize current social research to link theoretical frameworks with careful attention to context. In one study, “Pathways to Prison: Life Histories of Former Clients of the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems,” imprisoned adults were invited to tell their own stories, addressing their own understandings of justice, agency, and responsibility.