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Paralyzed American says Mexican doctors demanded ‘ransom’ before treatment


(NewsNation) — A dream vacation in Mexico turned into a double nightmare for two Americans. First, a paralyzing accident. Then, what one victim calls “medical extortion.”

“You’re in a hospital with people that you think are there [to] help people and save lives, and it wasn’t happening,” Justin Raiford told “NewsNation Prime” about the accident on the beach near Tulum, Mexico that instantly paralyzed his partner, Jared Hill.

That was one tragedy. Then, says Raiford, the hospital they found demanded thousands of dollars before admitting Hill, and thousands more to perform life-saving surgery on his spine.

Raiford, now in Texas where Hill is receiving care, says it was a nightmare “to have a life-threatening critical situation … to be held for ransom to have life-saving surgery that the neurosurgeons said he needed, or he was going to die.”

“This isn’t extortion. This isn’t bribery. This is how Mexico does business,” according to NewsNation national security contributor Tracy Walder.

She says Mexico’s national health care system provides free care for its citizens and residents in government-run hospitals.

“However,” she says, “there are private hospitals. The way that they do business is they do ask for payment up front.”

Walder says the ethics of that system may be dubious, but it’s “incorrect” to expect another country’s health system to run the same as medicine in the U.S.

Raiford isn’t sure about any recourse he has and wonders about how other Americans in Mexico will be treated. “I realize I’m more fortunate than some other people because … I could come up with the ransom money. Well, what would it be like for someone else? Would their loved one just die?”

Walder says, when you’re planning an overseas trip, one way to help stay safe is the SOS app, which lets you directly contact emergency services wherever you may be.