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Physicians and Arizona’s Immigration Law

August 8, 2010

Will Arizona SB-1070 Affect the
Physician Patient Relationship?

A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (June 2, 2010) questions whether Arizona physicians could be prosecuted for failing to report patients who are in the country illegally. Doctor Lucas Restrepo, MD, of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, writes that the new Arizona state immigration bill…“will seriously obstruct, if not undermine, the practice of medicine in the state of Arizona.”  

“It can be argued that health care providers who neglect to report illegal immigrants under their care will violate the law and be considered criminals. The bill provides physicians with no guidance as to what constitutes “reasonable grounds” to suspect that somebody is in the country illegally, leaving the particulars of such scrutiny to anyone’s imagination…One interpretation is that health care providers in Arizona will need to ask for a passport before seeing certain patients.
            “Asking patients to produce immigration documents violates the trust that physicians, nurses, and other health care workers endeavor to earn from them. This bill threatens one of the oldest traditions of medicine: physicians shall protect patients regardless of nationality or race.”

Together with two other physicians, Robert Spetzler and WilliamShapiro, Dr. Restrepo also wrote to The Arizona Republic saying, among other things, “It is unclear whether health-care professionals like ourselves will infringe on the law if we don’t report patients or their families…based on a vague suspicion of illegality…Asking patients to produce a passport violates the trust that we endeavor to earn from them. Realistically, physicians don’t have time for yet another bureaucratic routine…”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. H.E.Butler M.D., FACS permalink
    August 11, 2010 7:59 AM

    Which states are conducting a referendum on participation in torture and licensure? I ask because license-revocation is one way to address coercion in isolated units, including Bagram (AF), Abu Ghraib (Army), and the BSCT teams at Guantanamo (Army or Navy?), as follows:

    1. In 2004 Dr. Lifton alleged torture:
    http://www.mystart.com/search_g.php?q=torture+letter+nejm+winkenwerder&type=oovoo2_0mshp&pr=oovoo2_0&lz=us&provider=0&searchTypeId=0&ei=utf-8&fr=vmn&btnSH=Gsearch&hl=en&cx=partner-pub-1863604312000203%3Abw9y4hysb8t&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8;

    2. The surgeons general during this period are known:

    AF: George P. Taylor M.D. 2002-2006
    Army: Kevin Kiley M.D., FACOG 2004-7
    Navy: Donald C. Arthur M.D., J.D., Ph.D. 2004-2007.

    Did they address the issue raised by Dr. Lifton in 2004 and demonstrate to independent adjudication that they had done so; if not, have they profited from not doing so, as by taking profitable civilian positions which they would not hold if their participation/authorization of torture were known at the time they were hired? Where are they now: Did any of them authorize torture “from a distance” so as to maintain ‘deniability’ such as with the BSCT’s? Remember, physicians, psychologists, medics, corpsmen, nurses and others are all under the command of the surgeons general. It is not clear whether Southern Command places Guantanamo under the Army Surgeon General or leaves it under the Navy Surgeon General.

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