Two Time Heart Lung Transplant Patient an Illegal Alien?

According to this opinion piece, Jesica, the heart-lung transplant patient at Duke University who had the wrong type organs implanted, is an illegal alien.

I have been unable to verify this. The article refers to “other news outlets” but maybe I’m typing the wrong words in Google.

As a parent, if I had to do something illegal to save the life of my child, I would do it in a cold second.

Apparently there is some resentment toward illegal aliens coming here for complicated surgery and the taxpayers being forced to foot the bill. The article implies US citizens can die while illegal aliens get treatment and transplants.

As I understand it, UNOS is blind. Whoever needs it the most, gets it.

I think the problem here is not illegal aliens coming here for treatment. The problem is they are not able to get quality medical care in their own country. Jesica was obviously unable to have get the transplants in Mexico, so her parents brought her here. Illegally, yes, but dammit, they were trying to save her life.

I would suggest the problem be solved along the lines of the old adage, “Give a man to fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” We need to help these countries develop their medical know-how and technology so they can perform these complicated surgeries themselves. The conjoined twins from Guatemala(?) had to come here to be separated. How much less trauma would it have been on them and their families if Guatemalen doctors had been able to perform the surgery? After all, you don’t see a lot of Japanese coming here for organ transplants.

When I say “We need to help,” I do not mean we as taxpayers. I’m suggesting pharmaceutical companies, private charities, or perhaps Doctors Without Borders voluntarily help these countries develop medical technology necessary to do these delicate surgeries. Perhaps a charity or company can sponsor 100 Mexican or Guatemalan citizens who show promise to come here to be trained as doctors and surgeons and return to their country to practice.

Will this work?

And BTW, is there such thing as a medical visa, so a non-citizen can come here for medical treatment without fear of deportation?

[Fixed link. – MEB]

Any person who thinks its right to deny a life saving operation to a child just because she happens to have born in the wrong country need to have their citizenship revoked.

Do they want the doctors to check for citizenship papers (which americans born in the USA do not have) before treatment?

do they think it is morally justifiable, politically correct or legally advisable to let the child die rather than spend the money?

There are not many countries that are able to do what we are able to do medically. Legally 5% of transplants may be performed on foreign nationals . Part of the reason for this limit is simple math.

Foreign nationals coming onto our soil are getting organs from Americans. However, there are no methods by which Americans can recieve organs from foreigners.

Each foreigner that comes in dilutes the transplant pool.

It’s sad to consider that by offering to do good to others we can reduce the chances of American citizens receiving the benefits of their own generosity when in need.

X~Slayer, if the first surgery had gone well, we would not know Jesica existed. She would have been one of the 5%.

I feel terrible for this girl but there are horrible stories throughout the world everyday - I think we should take care of our own first. I’m sure there’s a 7 year old American girl with taxpaying parents out there who needs a heart or lung transplant but isn’t going to get one b/c 2 were used on an illegal immigrant.

I don’t trust Michelle Malkin; her columns tend to knee-jerk conservatism, and on some occasions, I have called her facts into question. Citing “other news outlets” doesn’t cut it for me; they could be reliable, or they could be specious. Without naming sources, I have to write the whole column off as a conservative rant, especially given her rather purple prose.

I just looked at the most recent stories on and, and was not able to find any reference to Jesica’s legal status. The msnbc article mentioned that she moved from Mexico to a relative’s home in Kentucky to get medical care.

Legal status aside, let’s not forget that the reason she needed two sets of organs was because the transplant surgeon made a mistake. He did not bother to type the organs prior to transplant, assuming they had already been typed.

I think that basic human compassion should override “public policy” in this case. This little girl is probably going to die because of the malpractice committed by the transplant surgeon. I don’t think it matters one whit whether she’s here legally or illegally.


I thought her medical bills were being paid by a private benefactor, not tax money.

Let us note that foreign visitor does not actually equal “illegal immigrant”. Otherwise we would have the INS deporting Japanese tourists right and left in San Francisco.

Unless this operation is being paid with U.S. tax dollars, it seems to me to just be an issue of the market responding to need, if you’re a laissez-faire type ( which I’m not, necessarily, but just to throw out the argument ). The issue of whether there is a desperate shortage of transplant material, where nationalism should intersect with that if there is, and how the waiting list works are separate points from the “illegal immigrant” thing.

But frankly I kind of hate the idea of being jingoistic with children’s lives. To the neediest first, IMHO.

  • Tamerlane

Just having the correct blood type is not the ONLY criteria for getting a donor organ. It just ain’t that easy and many people die waiting for a SUITABLE organ even when there are some organs of the right blood type out there. And sometimes organs go to waste because no one is in need at the exact time one becomes available because they do not match those that are in need.

According to this AP article:

There’s a little boy from my city currently in New York undergoing treatment for leukaemia which is not available in Australia. It’s costing the family over a million dollars to try and save his life. There’s been no question of saying he was an illegal alien. Like Jesica he’s in the US paying for treatment which may or may not save his life. If Jesica were Australian and not Mexican, would this kneejerk columnist have written what she did?

If her family is paying the bills for the operation, then by all means she should get it. Like Primaflora said, the kid from her city cant get whatever treatment he needs at home. The point was also made that the childs parents were paying for the treatment with their own money.

If the money is comeing from American tax dollars, then this kid needs to take a hike. I agree with the sentiment put forth by Bob55 , that we should take care of our own first. If you look at your countrie like it was your family it makes more sense. You wouldnt donate your kidney to your next door neighbor if you little sister needed it, would you? In the same sense we shouldnt care for others before we care for our own.

The regular B-2 visitor (aka tourist) visa is also legitimately used for coming to the U.S. for medical treatment, or for accompanying a minor child who is coming to the U.S. for medical treatment.

The catch is that it’s a strictly nonimmigrant visa category, meaning that if the consular official who looks at your application doesn’t believe you have sufficient ties to your home country to motivate you to go home at he end of the validity period of your visa, he/she is not likely to approve you application.

I don’t know anything about this family’s circumstances back home, but the kind of ties that would be useful support for a visa application are lots of family members back home (the closer, the better), a good job, property, assets; basically, anything that will tend to prove that you have something to go back to. So people from countries with a lower standard of living than the U.S. generally have a more difficult time getting visas.

I’d also be surprised to learn that only 5% of organ transplants can be performed on non-citizens; I hope they mean transplants are limited for people who are not residing legally and permanently in the U.S., rather than just for non-citizens. Why should permanent residents, refugees, and asylees be treated differentially for this purpose?

Oh, and one more thought; donor organs come from anyone who donates an organ upon dying in the U.S.; I’m sure some non-citizens end up donating organs into the U.S. pool. I bet some donor organs even come from people not legally present in the U.S.

Having lived in Mexico, I know that there are indeed hospitals in Mexico that can perform cardiopulmonary transplants. Maybe not enough to serve 100 million people…but Mexico has many skilled physicians and modern facilities, it is not as ass-backward as many Americans seem to think. Mexico’s problem is not backwardness (as Guatemala), it is horrendous inequality. Mexicans who can afford it stay in first world hospitals, ordinary Mexicans will crowd the public IMSS hospitals.

Personally, I think it’s Mexico’s shame that Jesica was probably compelled to go to the United States for this transplant when Mexico indeed has the technology and resources to do this - just not the will to make life better for the majority of its citizens.

Also, Jesica was 13 or so when she came here. Unless she is a teenage runaway, it was not her choice to be an “illegal” anything, and as someone mentioned, a wealthy American financed her stay in America and this operation - which if it had not been so terribly botched - would not have caught anyone’s notice (except maybe Malkin’s), and would not have resulted in the loss of two sets of donor organs.

syncrolecyne, could you explain further? Is there no such thing as health insurance in Mexico?

I thought the hospital needed permission before organs could be harvested. How would they get that from an illegal alien?

The thing about transplants like this is that they are hugely risky, and as far as I can work out, every one carried out is yet another major learning opportunity for medicine.

So anyone undergoing these procedures is as much giving something to medicine, as they are taking from it.

I assume the same way they get it from anyone else. I can’t imagine any decent-sized hospital, especially one in an urban area, without Spanish-speaking staff and/or access to translators and interpreters.

Besides, many people illegally present in the U.S. have relatives, and potentially next of kin, who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Having a relative who is legal isn’t always enough to give a person a basis for permanent residence, and even if the family relationship qualifies, it takes time to jump through INS’ hoops. Quite a number of “illegal aliens” are waitiing for INS approvals that would make them lega.

Update: Sadly the young girl died. On top of that the parents didn’t donate any of her organs, not even the heart/lungs she received.