‘I Do Not Have the Money to Pay for This!’

Anthony Hecht at the Portland Mercury relays a quick story he observed last night. A man—possibly mentally ill; the police were involved—was being strapped to a gurney and taken to the hospital “for his own safety.” Hecht reports the man “really became terrified and kind of lost it,” yelling repeatedly, “I do not have the money to pay for this.”

The right to refuse medical treatment is universally recognized,” however: you must be deemed conscious and competent. A dive medic—handle, “divemedic”—from a 2008 forum on ExpertLaw (lol) explains it really well: “There are certain circumstances where you can be treated and transported against your will. Alcohol intoxication, head trauma, and certain other conditions allow the EMT or Paramedic to rule that you are not competent to understand the medical consequences of refusing medical care, and therefore the law not only allows the EMT to treat you against your will, but requires him to do so. In such a case, you would be responsible for the bill.”

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5 Comments / Post A Comment

I once called 911 on my drunk roommate–she was passed out in the bathroom and I had never dealt with anything like that before. (Also I was pretty drunk myself.) She was violent towards the EMTs and they had to strap her down–she ended up ripping the IV out of her arm and walking home from the hospital in the middle of the night. She was furious at me for a while afterwards, and tried to make me promise that I’d never do it again because it was so expensive (like a $250 ambulance fee to go to a hospital 1.5 miles away).

MuffyStJohn (#280)

Because nothing says “America” like someone presenting with a mental illness severe enough for there to be police involvement still having the wherewithal to understand that healthcare = financial hardship.

Marzipan (#1,194)

Ohh nooooooo. Reading this felt like what I imagine being punched right in the solar-plexus would feel like. That last sentence OOOF.

Ugh, that happened to me once. I overdosed in college, got driven unconscious to the local satellite ER by roommates, was revived JUST ENOUGH to be made aware of what was happening and that I would be transferred to a cardiac unit in the real hospital, and my reaction? To flip out and slurringly beg the medics not to do it, because I couldn’t afford the ambulance OR the hospital stay. And once I came to again a day or two later, to repeat the panic process. Funtimes. Screw our private pay health system, for serious.

Poor guy.

darklingplain (#938)

People refusing necessary medical treatment because they can’t afford it is one of the worst effects of our screwed up healthcare system. In my town it’s not that uncommon for EMTs to be called to see someone who’s clearly having a heart attack but who will refuse transport because of money issues. If they prove impossible to convince, often the EMTs will just drive around the corner and catch up on paperwork while waiting for the next, inevitable call when the person collapses.

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