Tag Archives: Health

Prejudice Kills a Homeless Woman

Originally published on Care2; Open Salon Editor’s Pick

The national tendency to blame the homeless for their plight collided with the war on drugs to kill an innocent woman near St. Louis last September. 29-year-old Anna Brown, a homeless mother of two, went to the hospital seeking treatment for a sprained ankle and leg pain. After doctors dismissed her complaints and she refused to leave without treatment, Richmond Heights, Missouri police arrested and jailed her for trespassing at the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, she was dead of a blood clot that originated in her painful leg and traveled to her lungs.

Assuming that she was trying to scam drugs from the hospital, the police treated Ms. Brown like a criminal. They hoisted her from their car into the police station because the pain in her legs prevented her from walking. When they put her in the jail cell where she would die, they laid her on the concrete floor — right between two empty beds. Her ordeal from the hospital to the police car to the jail cell was captured on surveillance videos.

Ms. Brown was not a drug addict: according to the International Business Times, the autopsy revealed that she had no drugs in her system when she sought medical help.

Ms. Brown was also not lazy or a freeloader. She and her two children lost their home to a tornado, according to The Washington Post. Then Ms. Brown lost her job. Poverty eroded her family’s standard of living to the point that the government placed her children with Ms. Brown’s mother, and Ms. Brown herself became homeless.

Anna Brown represents a significant portion of our country’s homeless population: families that include adults willing to work but unable to find jobs that pay enough to support them and their children. Families with children are 41% of the homeless population. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “declining wages have put housing out of reach for many families.” Even families with working parents can’t always afford housing.

Under fire for Ms. Brown’s death, the local police protest that they deferred to medical professionals’ determination that Ms. Brown was healthy enough to be arrested and jailed. The medical professionals who made that determination protest that in some cases blood clots cannot be detected and that Ms. Brown did not appear to have any, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. No one seems to have explained why they did not treat the visible swelling in Ms. Brown’s ankle, which corroborated her complaints of pain.

But this was not a case of a poor person being denied any medical care. The Washington Post reported that medical professionals examined Ms. Brown and performed ultrasounds on both of her legs.

It is the hospital’s refusal to take her complaints of pain seriously and the police officers’ willingness to arrest her for trespassing at the hospital, both based on the assumption that she was an addict seeking drugs, that reflect common assumptions about poor people and that led directly to her death. As Ms. Brown’s sister Krystle said, “My sister is not here today because people passed judgment.”


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Judge Rules That Firing Woman Over Pumping Breast Milk Is Not Sex Discrimination

Lactation is not a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, and firing someone who wants to pump breast milk is not sex discrimination, according to a federal judge in Texas.

This decision is a stumper. Lactation occurs because of and immediately following pregnancy and childbirth, which makes it “related” to them. Only women lactate, so firing an employee because she needs to pump does discriminate against her on the basis of her sex.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought this suit against debt-collection agency Houston Funding on behalf of an employee whom the company fired, allegedly because she wanted to pump at work. The EEOC is considering appealing the decision by Judge Lynn Hughes (who is male).

Since the firing the federal government passed a law requiring employers to provide break time for new mothers to pump breast milk at work, but it does not prohibit employers from firing workers for pumping. One might have presumed that the anti-discrimination laws already had that covered, but now that is up in the air, and it will probably take years and opinions from higher courts to clear it up.

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All I Want for Christmas is Two Good Earplugs

As a Jew I don’t actually want anything for Christmas, but I do have a year-round wish to turn down the world’s volume knob, as regular readers know from “WOULD YOU TURN THAT DOWN?!!

In that spirit, here is a collection of quotes from fellow opponents of noise pollution. Two of my favorites:

“The sanitary and mechanical age we are now entering makes up for the mercy it grants to our sense of smell by the ferocity with which it assails our sense of hearing.”
~ Havelock Ellis, 1912, in Impressions and Comments (1930)

“I have terrible hearing trouble. I have unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type of music that makes its principal proponents deaf.”
~ Pete Townshend of The Who (2006 interview)

Music lovers, listen up: you now have Pete Townshend’s approval to wear earplugs at rock concerts.

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