Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Remembering Edith Isabel Rodriguez

On May 9, 2007 Edith Isabel Rodriguez, a struggling, uninsured, 43 year old mother of three died as police wheeled her to their car after an L.A. hospital ignored her bleeding, her cries of pain, and her pleas for help. Responding to a “disturbance in the lobby” police arrived at the hospital and took Ms Rodriguez into custody for a “suspected” parole violation. “Thanks a lot officers,” a nurse is reported to have said to the police as they wheeled Ms. Rodriguez out of the hospital, apparently still ignoring the dying woman the hospital staff labeled a “complainer”.

“It’s as though she was invisible,” her boyfriend Jose said.

But Edith Rodriguez was not invisible. She did not go gently into the night. Edith fought for the health care she needed until her dying moments. She visited the hospital on three separate occasions the days before her death, each time complaining of abdominal pain and each time to be released without a definitive diagnosis. Still, on the day she died from her untreated bowel perforation, Rodriguez returned to the hospital one more time, demanding and pleading for medical treatment.

Edith Rodriguez lived with various family members. Her sister who would make tamales for the fundraiser to help pay for Edith’s funeral costs, described her as a caring woman, someone who would give the shirt off her back to help others. She did not deserve to spend the last 45 minutes of her life in an emergency room lobby, vomiting blood, curled up on the floor in pain and crying as staff casually walked past her and as a janitor mopped the floor around her broken, bleeding body.

Why did the hospital and its staff betray Edith Rodriguez? What caused everyone in her presence, except her boyfriend and one bystander, to turn their back on her during the moments she was most vulnerable; when she needed help the most? Was she seen as poor and undeserving? Was she seen as hysterical, her pained bleeding body in a fetal position on the floor simply a ruse? Or was she an intolerable reminder of this medical systems failure?

Edith Rodriguez resisted with all her might yet ultimately she was overpowered and effectively pushed into her grave by an uncaring system; a hospital that denied treatment instead of fulfilling their mission to provide treatment. Her family, her friends, her community, we have all have been robbed of the life of Edith Rodriguez. We cannot accept her hastened death. We cannot forget.

In memory of Edith Rodriguez, we must continue with ever-increasing urgency the fight to ensure non-discriminatory health care for all. We must return and preserve hospitals as a safe harbor, a place of healing and care that values equally all members of our national community including people who are ill, disabled, poor, uninsured, underinsured, elderly, of color, immigrants, and all of us holding vulnerable identities.

Edith Isabel Rodriguez IS someone to remember.

For more information, I have included links to 2 stories from the L.A. Times:

How a hospital death became a cause celebre
videotape and two 911 calls cast light on a case that might've been ignored.
By Charles Ornstein
Times Staff Writer
June 15 2007

It might have gone down as the death of a "quasi-transient" woman with a history of abusing drugs. That's how the May 9 death of Edith Isabel Rodriguez was initially reported to the Los Angeles County coroner's office. The complete article can be viewed at:,1,633441.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Tale of last 90 minutes of woman's life
County officials express dismay at the events surrounding the recent controversial death at King-Harbor hospital. One nurse has resigned.
By Charles Ornstein
Times Staff Writer
May 20 2007
In the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was seen as a complainer. The complete article can be viewed at:,0,6057993.story?coll=la-home-center