At odds: KGUN9 viewers still arguing about a brain-injured immigrant
Pull the plug? Send him to Mexico? Viewers weigh in
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
Three days after it first appeared on KGUN9 News, the story of an unconscious, uninsured Mexican immigrant who has been on an expensive life support system in an Arizona hospital continues to draw a passionate response from KGUN9 viewers. Comments began coming in after our initial story on Wednesday, and were still coming in on Friday morning.
As 9 On Your Side investigator Steve Nuñez reported on Wednesday, 23 year old Jesus Cornelio recently collapsed while playing soccer. According to his wife, he suffered severe brain damage, and is now on life support at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Cornelio has no insurance. Nor is he a citizen. According to his family, Cornelio entered the U.S. on a tourist visa several years ago. Only recently did he apply for a green card, and he received his Social Security card just this past weekend. But because Cornelio has not been a legal resident for at least five years, he is not eligible for Medicaid.
According to his wife Evelyn, the hospital wants him gone. She says her options are to remove a feeding tube and let him die; put him in some kind of hospice care; or seek care for him in Mexico.
In cases where machines are keeping a brain-injured person alive, removal from life support typically is considered only if there is no medical hope of the patient ever waking up. But because the hospital is not talking, KGUN9 News has been unable to independently confirm the diagnosis or what options the hospital has presented to the family.
In a way, this news story is a perfect storm of hot-button issues, combining the ongoing debates over health care reform and government spending with those of legal and illegal immigration. Given that KGUN9 viewers tend to be outspoken on all of those issues, the strong response to this story comes as no surprise. There has been plenty of it, and we posted many samples in this space on Thursday afternoon. We also linked this Viewers' Voice column to our Facebook page, which prompted more feedback, including a fiesty attack on our story.
Here are some samples:
Christie Dugas Campos (via Facebook): "If he was here illegally, send him back. If he's here legally, then find the family and send them the bill. If hospitals keep letting people get the care and not pay the bill (at least part of it) they will have trouble keeping the excellent doctors, offering a level one trauma facility (as it is we only have UMC) and may close the doors on some of their services which would hurt many other people."
"AZPaul" writes: "Cornelio's story should serve as a call for comprehensive immigration reform = free medical care for illegals. I think not. If it was an American, I would say it was a call for a good national health care, not 2000 page Obamacare."
Luis A. Barnett (via Facebook): "How is it right to even decide who lives or dies? I bet anything we would all feel differently if we were involved in the matter."
"ladyswiss" writes: "Tough love to save America. Send him back to Mexico.... To really save America, get rid of Obama. No pension! We must apply tough love to survive here in the USA."
"xazothia" writes: "Can any of you people read? He's NOT an illegal immigrant. Not a US citizen, but *here legally*."
"TaitAZ" writes: "This is really a sad article. Where are all of these immigration activist groups now when an immigrant needs their financial help. These groups should step up to show that it's more than politics and help this man with his medical care."
Anna Maria Melendez (via Facebook): "I don't agree. He is just a human, just like everyone else. They should let him live and then send him back to Mexico. Let him get well."
"JamVee" writes: "Where is President Calderone? He is always telling us how concerned he is for his people, and how we are mistreating them here in the US. You would think he would offer to to transport this man back to Mexico and continue to treat his injuries."
Laurie Angeles Vaughn (Via Facebook): "I agree pull the plug. It is sad but if it were you or I we would be in the same situation, even with insurance, unfortunately."
Laura de Steiguer (Via Facebook): "I hope and pray nothing of this nature happens to someone close to you and that you aren't forced to read comments like that about your loved one.... So long as his visa status is valid, which it seems to be, he has every right to be here with his family.... The state of our health care system is abominable where, regardless of our status, health care providers can toss people in need of their care out on the street."
Robert A Hutchison (Via Facebook): "I'm so proud (NOT) to be an Arizonan."
Iri Denogean (via Facebook): "God bless this man and his family. I pray that God give them the strength to live through this very difficult part of their lives."
Jay Dee Berryman (via Facebook): "Send him back to Mexico and see what their government does for him."
Joe Pyritz (via Facebook): "If this person was from Europe, you guys would be standing up for him. Some of the responses here are revolting. This isn't the country I grew up in."
Connie Peterson (via Facebook): "KGUN 9 SHAME on YOU for inflaming this hype. Media stories like this are a major reason for the division & separation in humanity now."
Shame on us for bringing this story to light? On second thought, maybe Ms. Peterson is right. Maybe any time we come across a story that might get people worked up, we should spike it, keeping it secret and buried. If someone has a problem with the way they're being treated by those in authority, too bad. No one has any right to challenge authority in this country. The news media have no right to interview such people or to make their stories public. You're better off not knowing. After all, such a story might spark conversation. It could even get people angry at one another. It might even lead to those in authority having to explain themselves. We can't have that.
Before you rush to agree with that philosophy, bear in mind that it would also have to apply to, say, a homeowner who is not happy about a big tax increase. In the name of civility and fairness, we'd have to censor your views, too.
Of course, that's not what we do. As KGUN9 News states plainly in our 9 On Your Side Viewers' Bill of Rights, it's our job to give voice to everyday people and to help the public hold those in power accountable. This particular story is newsworthy and important. People need to know about it -- and they want to know about it. If that were not true, then Thursday's edition of the column you are reading right now would not have been the second most-read story for day on KGUN9.com. (As of the time of this updated posting, it's the most-read story for Friday).
We do make judgments about what kind of stories we think you want to know about, but we don't make judgments about what the correct course of action should be -- which in this case means we aren't saying the family is right and the hospital is wrong. Or vice versa.
After reading Ms. Peterson's post and my long-winded reply to it, Alva Davis wrote in by email with these views: "You are 100% correct in bringing this story out in the open. It’s the right thing to do. We need to know. "
Ms. Davis wants the facts, which is to be commended. She also has strong views on the overall issue, going on to say: "There is a whole lot more we don’t know about the cost of illegals. America is BROKE because of Obama and all the illegals here that we pay for. President Calderone should step up and take care of his people. Fly Cornelio back to Mexico and hospitalize him there. Then, Calderone should pick up the expenses for him.... These people know that they are taking a chance when they come here, and unfortunately some get caught in these situations. Then they cry foul."
What do you think? Join in. You can post your comments here or on our Facebook page.
Watch for more coverage on KGUN9 News today.