In Brief: UT Teaching Hospital Considers Turning Away Undocumented Cancer Patients

GALVESTON Texas

The University of Texas Medical Branch may stop offering cancer care to indigent and undocumented immigrants in order to cut costs.

The UTMB set aside about $12 million in this year’s $1.4 billion annual budget to treat indigent cancer patients, but that isn’t enough to meet demand, said Karen Sexton, vice president and CEO of hospitals and clinics at the medical branch.

The medical branch laid off 381 employees last year as it dealt with inflation, state funding cuts and the growing number of Texans without health insurance.

Its Cancer Patients Acceptance Committee has been studying the issue of turning away undocumented immigrants to alleviate some of the financial pressure, but the possibility raises obvious ethical questions, Sexton said.

“Any time there’s any restriction in access to care, there’s pushback from people who are concerned about that,” Sexton said. “It doesn’t feel right to us, either.”

The medical branch doesn’t keep track of the number of undocumented, indigent cancer patients it treats.

Even if the policy were changed, UTMB would not stop treating cancer patients already in its care. Once cancer treatment begins, hospitals and doctors are ethically bound to continue.

Unless Texans address the overall problems of the uninsured and funding for public hospitals, cash-strapped institutions must begin drawing lines, said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities and chair of UTMB’s ethics committee.

“If they want indigent folks to get care and want everybody in Texas to at least have a chance to have more access to medical care, then voters of Texas should step up and provide more resources,” Brody said.

Associated Press

Researcher’s Work Leads to Dismissal of Charges in Tulsa “Race Riot” Case

Andrew J. Smitherman, a prominent newspaperman, and 54 other Black men wrongly accused of inciting the 1921 “Tulsa Race Riot” will be cleared, thanks to the research efforts of Dr. Barbara Nevergold of the University of Buffalo.

On Dec. 11, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris will file a motion to dismiss the charges against the men.

“After gathering testimonials from a number of people who knew him, it became clear to me that Mr. Smitherman was a man of integrity, honesty and high morals, which is why it is so important to me to clear his name at this late date,” said Nevergold.

Some 350 people, the vast majority of them Black, died during the 16-hour riot, which started on May 31, 1921 and cost Smitherman his home and newspaper business, the Tulsa Star.

According to Nevergold’s research, the riot may have started after a group of Black men, perhaps inspired by Smitherman, assembled at the Tulsa Courthouse to show their support for a sheriff who refused to turn over to a lynch mob a 19-year-old Black man accused of assaulting a White woman.

Smitherman was indicted for inciting the riot and fled Tulsa, starting over in Buffalo, where he launched the Buffalo Star. He died in 1961.

For nearly a year, Nevergold, whose research has culminated into a co-written book, “Uncrowned Queens, African American Community Builders of Oklahoma,” called and wrote to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office making a case for dismissal of charges.

At Nevergold’s request, Tulsa DA Harris studied the records and report released by the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which was created in 1997.

“It became clear to me that the rule of law which governs our search for the truth in our criminal justice system broke down during this tragic event and justice would best be served if charges were dismissed against not only Mr. Smitherman, but all defendants,” Harris said.

— Diverse Staff

Lawsuit Prompts Revision of Scholarship Absence Policy

CHARLESTON, W.Va.

 The state Higher Education Policy Commission wants to revise the PROMISE scholarship’s leave of absence policy in response to a West Virginia University student’s lawsuit.

At a meeting Friday in Glenville, the commission proposed adding military duty, programs related to the student’s study, service, study abroad, volunteerism, extreme financial hardships and extraordinary circumstances beyond the student’s control as reasons for a student may take a leave of absence from the scholarship.

The revisions will be submitted to the Legislature for approval after a 30-day public comment period.

The current policy allows leaves of absence only for medical reasons or family bereavement.

Higher Education Chancellor Brian Noland said David Haws’ lawsuit exposed problems with the policy.

Haws, a Mormon student at WVU, lost his state-funded merit-based scholarship because he left the university to serve a two-year church mission.

Haws sued the state PROMISE Board in July in federal court, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. His attorney argues that by denying Haws’ request for a leave of absence, the board forced him to choose between his religion and his PROMISE scholarship.

Haws returned to West Virginia earlier this year after spending two years helping improve living conditions for Hispanic workers in Western states. He has reenrolled at WVU and the university has agreed to defer his tuition while the lawsuit is pending.

Haws’ lawsuit seeks the reinstatement of the 4.0 student’s scholarship and a change in the policy.

Associated Press

 

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