Dialysis patients face death as treatment is scheduled to be cut

Published on
July 30, 2010

A group of 30 end-stage renal patients of Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta, face death as their dialysis treatment is scheduled to be cut soon. Many of these patients are undocumented Latino immigrants who do not have insurance and do not qualify for public benefits. Their immigration status has been a barrier to find alternative care and they are running out of options.

Life for these patients is not easy. Three times a week they need to go through a painful procedure that keeps them alive. They are tired all the time, and some days they can barely walk. At the same time, they have to keep up with their regular lives; take children to school, go to work and run errands. All while knowing that sometime soon they can be on the verge of death.

As part of my project I will follow three of these patients in the weeks before and after the contract with their current dialysis treatment provider expires. I will also interview members of a group created to advocate for these patients, and expose the ethical considerations of this case.

My second project will explore the issue of suicide among Latino teenagers in Georgia, a problem that is barely mentioned but has a deep impact on this community. Ten percent of Latino middle school students attempted suicide compared to 7% of Blacks and 6% of Whites in 2007, according to a 2008 report on the health of Georgia's Latino children by the National Council of La Raza. Moreover, among high school students, 15% of Latinos reported that they seriously considered suicide, while 7% received medical attention after attempting suicide.

My intention is to shed light on this problem that is taking its toll on an already troubled community. One of the main causes of Latino suicide is the stress associated with immigration and this can certainly apply to many teenagers in Georgia, who are either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants.

In this series of articles, I will offer tips on how to recognize alarming behaviors, and prevent suicide attempts. I will also report on organizations that are tackling this issue and point out to resources in the community.