Suffering and Dying for Healthcare in Las Vegas

By Donna Smith

Happy Easter everyone. Happy season of new life and blooming flowers. It’s the season of rebirth and regeneration. So, if that’s the case, then what the hell is up with letting thousands of people wait and suffer and die because we do not have the money to treat their illnesses anymore? In Las Vegas. It’s Vegas, baby. But it could be Sioux City or Boston or even Missoula. It is the reality of our national healthcare disgrace in America.

If you watched CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, April 4, then you saw the same horrifying story I did. Budget cuts had to be made at the county hospital in the recession, the hospital CEO said. Outpatient chemotherapy clinic is closed. Letters go out to the patients. Treatment ends. People suffer with growing tumors, broken bones from metastasized cancers; people suffer to breathe. The budget is cut. It’s horrifying stuff this national disgrace. (If you didn’t see it, you can watch it here.)

Want a chocolate Easter egg? How about some jelly beans in a basket?

Meanwhile, a young mom and cancer patient in Las Vegas goes untreated… she worked and had insurance until she got too sick. Then, well, you know the drill by now. She’s dying. She’s suffering. She even had her hospital bed repossessed. She’s one of us. She is me. She is you. She is your child. And she is just one of thousands who got the letters telling them their treatments were ending. Done. No more care.

And now there is no bail-out for her or for any of us if we’re in her shoes. Where’s her bail-out? No one is even talking that way or thinking that way. Healthcare reform is on their radar, they say. We’ll get it done this year, they proudly exclaim. Meanwhile, this woman suffers. Another person dies. What is there to be proud of?

Could this Congress act now on our behalf, please? There is a war against humanity going on in these United States. My Congress and my President are to be keeping me safe and secure in my home. But so long as they know of these lethal abuses within the healthcare system, they are not honoring their commitments to me. Or to you.

This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s Las Vegas.

We could see swift action, if we had lawmakers who saw this as an attack on our citizens. For instance, there could be a moratorium on any patient having cancer treatment discontinued due to budget cuts or insurance company bottom lines. Clean and clear. No more letters cutting off treatment. While they dance their political dances on the long-term policy, could they please act as if we’re under attack? Because we are. People are being put to death through budget cuts and profit-margins, and many are getting less care than is guaranteed a prisoner under our set of laws protecting those who are incarcerated.

Yet we sit in calm meetings in Washington, DC, — and we argue about who sits in the White House forums and who does not — and in other venues around the nation trying to decide if the political impact of health reform plans will harm re-election chances for our favorite elected friends or make the insurance or big corporate hospital interests upset with our lawmakers. Blah, blah, blah… while another dozen or score or more die. Cancer doesn’t wait for anyone to decide who is in and who is out.

Happy Easter. The season celebrating the risen prince of peace isn’t so damn peaceful for people on the wrong side of the recession. Especially people with cancer.

I just want that young woman and the thousands of others in her same inexcusable situation in these United States to know we’re fighting for what is just… healthcare is indeed a human right. Health insurance will not get us there – it can be lost, it can be changed, it can be inadequate, it can be denied and it can be dishonored.

But healthcare is a human right. It is not a political football. I pray we have the strength to do what is right and just, publicly funded and privately delivered healthcare – and do it now – because doing less would not be what we are all about as people. We are better than this.

During Easter and every season, we are better people than this. I know we are because we still have the ability to be horrified when a young mother in Las Vegas suffers needlessly. I hope she takes her place in heaven knowing we cared. Happy Easter, Yolanda Coleman. May God somehow make your pain a little less severe today. I am sorry you have hurt so badly during this time. You deserved better.

Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.


  1. care4all on April 11, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Max Baucus and others are blocking even the consideration of a public option. We’ve got to act!


    From the article: “Baucus Draws Big Money From The Health Industry”

    “A new study released this week by a California advocacy group shows that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus has received more campaign contributions from health insurance firms and pharmaceutical manufacturers over the past four years than any other Democrat in Congress.”

    According to the Consumer Watchdog study ( using Federal Election Commission data, Sen. Baucus has received $413,000 since 2005 from insurance companies and drug makers, third behind U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.” 


    Sen Max Baucus, who ruled single-payer and a public optionhealth reform off the table, is now pressuring the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to favorably judge his health plan as financially sound–even though it isn’t. The CBO issued a series of recent studies which have found that most savings claimed, in the effort to keep private-for-profit insurance companies in the mix, do not exist.

    Alternatively, a single-payer system would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.


    Write to Baucus:

    E-mail your Senators and Representatives. You can find your elected officials’ contact information here:

    The facts are here: