An uninsured, sick and unconscious 69-year-old Polish man, who had lived in the U.S. for 30 years and suffered a stroke, was transported by American health care providers from the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. to a hospital in Boleslawiec, Poland, without his consent and knowledge.
Though he also lacks health coverage in Poland, the patient is under proper medical care in the county hospital in Boleslawiec. The case, however, is questionable when it comes to the legality of what happened and constitutes a dangerous precedent, as there is concern that other medical facilities will follow in the footsteps of the New Brunswick hospital, Polish diplomats fear.
In order to transport a patient form an American hospital outside of the country, the hospital authorities need the patient’s consent, consent from his legal guardian (a family member), or in the case of the lack of the above – consent by a special, court-appointed person or curator.
There is suspicion that in this case, the law was broken, as the patient’s health condition indicates that he couldn’t have given his consent for the transfer, his family was not showing interest in taking care of him, and there was no court-appointed curator.
“We motioned at the New Brunswick hospital for the curator to be appointed by the court, because owing to the consequences of the stroke he suffered, the patient was not capable of making any decisions, and his two daughters did not want to have anything to do with it. However, the hospital didn’t react to our request and the next thing we knew, the patient had already been flown to Poland,” said Consul General of Poland Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka. “This came as a surprise and happened rather suddenly. Getting no response from the hospital regarding appointing a special curator, we had considered reaching out to the court and filing a request for the curator, but it turned out it was too late,” the consul added.
The hospital didn’t inform anybody about the fact that the patient was being transported to Poland. The consular team found out about it from the media. The patient was transported by the Air Escort Medical Flight, a company hired especially for that purpose. However, the legal grounds of the operation were not immediately known. It was not deportation, for sure, as a different agency handles such cases.
“We are trying to find out from the hospital what legal grounds the transfer was based on. As the director of the medical facility in Boleslawiec, Poland, confirmed, the patient’s condition made him incapable of making decisions nor even signing his name on the paperwork. Unfortunately, our communication with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is very limited,” said Polish consul Agnieszka Torres de Oliveira.
“This situation constitutes a dangerous precedent. There is a concern that other hospitals will follow suit and start sending their seriously ill and unconscious patients back to their countries of origin, just like the New Brunswick hospital did,” said Consul General Junczyk-Ziomecka, adding that in the area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Polish Consulate in New York, there are at least two other sick patients from Poland who are unconscious with no health insurance, and whose families – for many reasons – don’t want to take care of them. Because of high health care costs, which the hospitals incur, the facilities are looking for ways of sending the sick patients back to Poland.