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Cynthia McKinney’s aunt dies from probable medical malpractice and insurance company interference

Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was the Green Party candidate for President in 2008.

From Cynthia McKinney: How Did We Get From There to Here?
A message to Cynthia McKinney’s supporters, posted at onthewilderside by Ian Wilder

I never want you to take the journey that I’m currently on. So, I want to tell you about it.It starts on the front of the refrigerator. “The Healthiest Foods on Earth.” A two-page primer from apple to watermelon, touting immunity to male fertility support. Inside the refrigerator, natural and organic foods only. On the countertop is the Jack LaLanne juicer, the Magic Bullet, the handy food chopper plus, the food saver vacuum sealer–all items familiar to us because they are constantly hawked on the midnight cable channels. Hanging from the kitchen cabinet door are plastic bags for recycling: one for plastics, the other for aluminum cans. The house and car are filled with reusable shopping bags made of recycled materials. By the way, a new car was in the works, and not because of the cash for clunkers program of the Federal Government. An American-made hybrid was preferred–keeping U.S. workers working. In the back seat of her Ford Focus is a booklet, “Living in a Healthy Body: A New Look at Health & Weight.” What I’m trying to describe is someone working very hard at changing a typically indulgent “American” lifestyle into one more respectful and healthy for the body, healthy for our earth.

So, in an act of preventive medical care, my aunt Hazel went to the doctor to have a colonoscopy. We are all bombarded with television commercials advising us to have a colonoscopy. I know in the black media, those ads abound. And so, dutifully, my aunt abided by those suggestions for healthy choices and had her first colonoscopy. What the family knows is that her colon was perforated. That’s when our journey took us on a wrong turn.

Unfortunately, the facility that performed the colonoscopy had told my aunt not to call before the results were published and that would take up to two weeks!!! When my aunt called them because she was feeling so bad, they told her that she’d be ok overnight and that they would call her in the morning. The hospital talked to her and her daughter. The hospital told my aunt to go to sleep overnight and they’d call her back in the morning. But my aunt-tee continued to deteriorate so badly that her daughter called 9-1-1 and by the morning, my aunt-tee was already in surgery at another hospital that was not too busy to care for her. This is when the perforation was discovered and repaired.

While my aunt was recovering in the second hospital, in intensive care, a letter was sent from the hospital where the colonoscopy was performed stating that they were the insured’s provider and that the hospital performing the emergency surgery would not get paid. The hospital performing the mal-colostomy demanded my aunt-tee back. So, against the desires of the hospital providing the emergency surgery, my aunt, while still in intensive care, was forced to be transferred to the hospital that, in my opinion, committed a capital crime.

My aunt-tee deteriorated after the transfer, but fought like heck to live. Unfortunately, her body had been so poisoned by the doctor’s failure to recognize that he had perforated her colon that her body became toxic. The third affront to my aunt-tee’s health and life occurred when morphine was administered, ostensibly for pain and gave her such a blow to her vital statistics that the family objected to a second administration of morphine. But guess what!!! She was given morphine again, despite her children’s complaints!!!! My aunt never recovered from that.

My aunt, a divorced mother of two, struggled to live righteously. Those of you in southern California know that she accompanied me almost everywhere I went. She was a hard-working woman, a proud homeowner in Watts, a student working on her Social Work degree, finally able to achieve her dreams after deferring them for so long in order to help her children realize theirs. She also took to the campaign trail too many times, traveling to Georgia to help my father and me realize ours. I can’t even believe that she’s gone–through no fault of her own–and I’m still wondering how the heck my aunt ended up in this place. Despite all the care she took of herself this is unfathomable to me. And sadly, too many families are arriving at this same place. Iraqi families devastated by U.S. occupation; Afghani families devastated by U.S. war; U.S. families also devastated by U.S. policy makers. Why?

For the last four years, I’ve spouted off the racial quality-of-life disparities that exist in our country. I’ve said it so much, it’s as if no one heard me. Because even during my tenure in Congress, I gave floor speeches, but the policy change never came. I spoke at banquets and conventions about it, but the policy changes never came. Two steps forward always seemed to end with one step backward. If we got the money appropriated, in too many instances, black institutions couldn’t be in charge of it, so only a trickle at best reached the community. I found that the “plantation” was alive and well in patterns of federal spending. So when Dr. David Satcher, President Clinton’s Surgeon General, found in a 2005 study that over 83,000 blacks die unnecessary and premature deaths each year due to their treatment after they arrive in a doctor’s office, among other factors, I added that datum to my panoply of quality-of-life stats. And now, my aunt factors in Dr. Satcher’s numbers.

I have seen such betrayal and lack of principle in the current “health care” debate, I had no intention of getting into it. In our Power to the People campaign, I wrote a platform that included policy recommendations to eliminate all disparities still extant in our society, including for health care. A single-payer system is so obviously needed, it should be too politically costly for our Democratic majority in the Congress and our Democratic White House to do anything else. I recommended an end to war. I advocated public ownership of the Federal Reserve. I even anticipated the skullduggery of the bailouts and recommended that if the “powers that be” were intent on forcing Congress to give these bailouts to institutions that conducted what I would call criminal behavior, then at a minimum, a credible person like David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller, should audit all corporations and institutions receiving such funds. I suggested that Senator Obama use the power of his Senatorial pen to amend the bailout legislation to this effect. It didn’t happen.

My aunt-tee had a policy of rarely voting for an incumbent. She understood that just as she was trying to change herself into a lifestyle that she could believe in, she wasn’t going to get political, social, and economic change that she could believe in by voting like everyone else, for the same special interest candidates. Once she decided that it was necessary to step outside of the box of political conformity, she discovered that there were Independent, Green Party, Libertarian, and other political party candidates on her ballot that she had long ignored. She began to listen to them and learned to explore the totality of her options. It was glorious to watch my aunt-tee’s liberation.

So why is she in the morgue now?

Not enough people took that journey with her. Not enough people saw her example. Not enough was done to change policy. At a time when the policy makers have never been so divorced from the reality borne by the average citizens that they govern, the American people have shown an amazing ability to accept graft, corruption, death, and destruction while continuing to believe that hope alone can produce real change. Why did Cindy Sheehan protest without thousands in front of President Obama’s $50,000 a week vacation home?

I’ve tried to walk my talk. Just last week it came out that one “journalist” who called for my lynching was on the FBI payroll at the time of his comment. He claims to have been paid to say provocative things. I’ve withstood a lot–for the people. But now, I really don’t know how much more walking or talking I’m able to do. I just wonder, how many more will have to experience this before more people write their own Declarations of Independence from this political disorder.

The phone just rang and it was the hospital that performed the botched colonoscopy on my aunt, that ignored her call for help, that demanded that she be transferred while she was in intensive care, that administered morphine twice, despite objections from the family and from which her vitals never recovered. They wanted to know how my aunt would rate their service. I told them poor on every count.

Thank you for reading this with empathy and I thank you all for your support. I apologize for any appointments that I’ve missed while I’ve been on the road to this place I’m in now.

P.S. My friend, David Josué, wrote a beautiful notice that I include in this message. Please click on the link at the end of his message because “dying while black” is real. My aunt is just the latest victim. The highlights are mine:

Cynthia McKinney lost a family member . . .
100,000 Unnecessary Black Deaths Per Year!

[09/01/09] It is with a heart full of sorrow that I have to inform you of the death of Cynthia’s maternal aunt. Hazel was not sick and took all preventive measures to live a long life. She went to have a colonoscopy and her colon was punctured. What else went wrong during the procedure is still unknown to the family. Hazel survived Jim Crow but could not survive the health care system. Cynthia is deeply affected by this tragic event. She was very close to her aunt and Hazel loved her niece. Hazel was a fervent supporter of Cynthia’s six terms in Congress and was so happy to see her niece run for President of the United States in 2008. Only last July the 4th she was in Atlanta with us while we were working around the clock to secure Cynthia’s release from an Israeli jail. It is hard to accept that she is no more.

Please visit Professor Vernellia Randall’s site

Thank you

David Josué


  1. Kathy Cummings Kathy Cummings December 13, 2009

    My heart goes out to Cynthia McKinney.
    I’m sorry to learn of our loss, her loss is our loss.

    We are all family, all around the planet.
    Bless us all and our beautiful, abused planet.
    Let’s get it all together, Family!

  2. Dee Dee September 14, 2009

    I happened upon this site and was moved to respond. I have been out of the hospital about two weeks now due to a colon puncture. This happened at a veteran’s facility. My family members could easily have been writing this article. Thank God it’s me. My heart and many prayers go out to you and your family.

  3. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder September 7, 2009

    The Green Party of Mississippi issued a press release. It is a short statement from the party, and then Ms. McKinney’s statement about what happened as above:

    -Green Party Of Mississippi Decries Needless Black Deaths, Urges End To Health Disparities

    September 5, 2009
    8 Gumtree Drive
    Oxford, MS 38655
    greenpartyms at hotmail dot com

    The Green Party of Mississippi expresses its most sincere condolences to Cynthia McKinney and her family on the senseless death of her aunt.

    We are outraged at the institutions responsible – not just the negligent and reckless hospital but all the government officials and private interests who delay and posture and ignore human needs that cry out for humane policies plus diligent enforcement and oversight.

    And we urge news media to make this tragedy and Cynthia McKinney’s appeals known, not because they are unique but because they have been neglected by media and policymakers to date, to the detriment of the bodies of hundreds of thousands of persons and the souls of us all.-

  4. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder September 4, 2009

    Note that the hospitals and the insurance companies are all part of a corrupt system.

    The way that Cynthia McKinney tells the story, there is some aspect of her aunt being an “insured” that causes the first hospital demand she be transferred back to them.

    So, either the insurance company directly interfered in the medical decisions, or the hospital’s fear of complying with insurance regulations interfered in her medical care.

    There are two problems in this story:

    The hospital.

    Some insurance company
    (either the health insurance or the liability insurance, which caused the hospital(s) to make a certain decision.)

  5. Dave Schwab Dave Schwab September 4, 2009

    I’ve noticed that so often when someone writes “why isn’t anyone doing anything about …?” the reply that jumps to mind is “But Ralph Nader….”

    I can’t tell you off the top of my head exactly how much Nader and his organizations are doing about the problem of medical malpractice. However, he has been a leader in the fight against tort deform, which would give malpractitioners and others who hurt their clients a free hand by greatly limiting the consumer’s ability to hold them accountable.

  6. paulie paulie September 3, 2009

    Paulie, I’m not sure whether your comment was a response to me or not at all. Either way, it’s cool. But news writers shouldn’t make *unattributed* accusations such as “X killed Y” without evidence like an admission of guilt or a court conviction. Adding “probably” doesn’t make it all better.

    Not my story. I would have gone with something like Cynthia McKinney: “…………….” . I was mainly addressing the issue itself, not the dispute between you and Kimberly over the headline.

  7. Donald R. Lake Donald R. Lake September 2, 2009

    That is one of the saving graces of Third Party Watch and then Independent Political Report. Leaving a paper trail.

  8. Barb Barb September 2, 2009

    That is how my mom died as well. They got away with it too as we were too upset to fight back.

    She is now gone about 7 years and I dearly miss my mom. She was only 65.

  9. Mary-Anne Mary-Anne September 2, 2009

    Decisions are not made by “organizations”.
    They are made by individuals.

    What was the name of the doctor who performed the colonoscopy that resulted in the perforated colon?

    Has an appropriate complaint been made to the state medical authority, possibly revoking this doctors right to practice medicine?

    What was the name of the hospital that employed this doctor?

    Who told the patient that she did not need immediate care? What justification did they give?

    Who prescribed the morphene? What justification did they give?

    Were the family’s objections to the morphene communicated to the doctor who prescribed the morphene, or did they just tell someone who did not communicate the information further?

    Is administering morphene twice considered the normal medical practice for a patient with a perforated colon?

    What justification for moving a very sick patient did the hospital that sent the letter give? Who made the decision to send the letter? What reason did they give?

    What justification for moving a very sick patient did the hospital that received the letter give? Who made this decision? What reason for moving the patient did they give?

    People would be less likely to repeat bad behavior if they know that they stop being anonymous after having done it.

  10. Michael H. Wilson Michael H. Wilson September 2, 2009

    Kimberly I have first hand experience with the malpractice in the medical industry and the harm, both financially and physically, it can cause someone along with their family. However to say that a insurance company was involved as the headline suggest is miss leading at best and the headline needs to be corrected. That would be my point.

    The woman died from medical malpractice and there are for too many such deaths and no one is doing squat to solve the problem.

    In 1993 and 1995 I was able to get legislation introduced in the legislature of the state I was living in at the time to address this issue. I didn’t have the resources to get much done. Time, money and skills were in short supply.

    I don’t think we should let the hospital off when the problem was their fault and no insurance company was involved, or so it seems at this point.

  11. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder September 2, 2009

    Just because the insurance company was not particularly aware, does not mean that it is not at fault.

    Systemically, if the patient was not “the insured”, then no one would be arguing about her having to go back to the same hospital, or moving her about because she was “the insured”.

    That is the point. The bigger point. There were doctors who could help someone. There was a sick bed that Ms. McKinney’s aunt should have stayed in since she was in a critical medical state.

    But, because there was this system of “insurance” that described the woman as “the insured” instead of as a patient, the she was moved at a bad time, against the advice of her doctors in the new hosptial, and she died unnecessarily.

    How could we all work to make sure that the health care system always sees us first as a person and a life, and does not first see us as the money-making mark in their ledger?

  12. Michael H. Wilson Michael H. Wilson September 2, 2009

    What we don’t know was whether or not the hospital was just covering their ass and we don’t know if the insurance company was even aware of the issue. I’d like to know what hospital it was. There may not have even been an insurance company involved.

    If the hospital that screwed up was an HMO I can see why the hospital doing the emergency surgery would not get paid since the first hospital would not want to admit to the error.

    Too many strings not explained.

  13. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder September 2, 2009

    Here is the section of the story that says it is about insurance:

    -a letter was sent from the hospital where the colonoscopy was performed stating that they were the insured’s provider and that the hospital performing the emergency surgery would not get paid.-

    So, it was something about someone’s insurance company – either the hospital’s liability insurance, or the threat of someone not getting paid by medical insurance. It is not specific.

    But, in some way, there was something to do with insurance that interfered in her care.

    I think that perhaps the commenters are reading too much into it.

    In addition, note that I do not name an insurance company, or a specific action they did.

    If you are worried about it, perhaps you should research the details of the story.

    But, the way I presented it is accurate to the report of a former Congresswoman, Ms. McKinney, and David Josue, who she quotes.

    Kimberly Wilder

  14. Michael H. Wilson Michael H. Wilson September 2, 2009

    But Kimberly JT Has written: “Cynthia McKinney Says Aunt Died From Insurance Company Interference.”

    Where did the insurance company step in? Yes I know that the hospital that caused the mistake wanted her transferred. It could have been a self insured hospital.

  15. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder Post author | September 2, 2009

    But, I just had to add,


    If someone punctures your colon, I will be sure to use the most calm and objective language possible to describe the injustice.

  16. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder September 2, 2009


    Read any major media headlines, lately? Much, much, more sensational.

    And, in regular media, the author usually doesn’t even write their own headline. So, your comment is somewhat misplaced…If I was a professional journalist, I wouldn’t have to sit around writing headlines.

    Anyway, I think the “probably” says it fine, considering the source and point of view is clearly explained in the article. I considered “allegedly”, but to me, that sounds even more like a criminal complaint has been filed.

    To Michael Wilson-

    When Cynthia McKinney’s Aunt was in a hospital that was fixing her problem, the first hospital – which had caused the problem – demanded the aunt be moved back to them, in her fragile condition, because she was their “insured.”

  17. Michael H. Wilson Michael H. Wilson September 2, 2009

    @ 1 JT Ii missed where the insurance company had anything tpo do wih this. Please point that out for us.

    Secondly it has been estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 die annually in the U.S. because of medical errors, that 100,000 die from hospital born infections and about 12,000 die from unecessary procedures. I will grant you that some of these numbers overlap but there certainly is a problem that the government has looked the other way regarding. It happens across all demographic groups and it raises some good questions.

    If the government is responsible for protecting lives what responsibilty does the government have when someone is injured, or dies at the hands of a medical practitioner? Do we even have the courage to address that question?

  18. JT JT September 2, 2009

    Paulie, I’m not sure whether your comment was a response to me or not at all. Either way, it’s cool. But news writers shouldn’t make *unattributed* accusations such as “X killed Y” without evidence like an admission of guilt or a court conviction. Adding “probably” doesn’t make it all better.

  19. paulie paulie September 2, 2009

    I have no doubt that government-connected insurance company bureaucracies played a major role in this and many other unnecessary deaths. Cynthia McKinney notes correctly that “Two steps forward always seemed to end with one step backward. If we got the money appropriated, in too many instances, black institutions couldn’t be in charge of it, so only a trickle at best reached the community. I found that the “plantation” was alive and well in patterns of federal spending.”

    Given these facts, why would anyone presume that a government monopoly would be any more equitable and error-free in paying for health care than a government-connected cartel?

    Whatever the case, my condolences to the whole McKinney family and all friends of the deceased.

  20. JT JT September 2, 2009

    Aside from this being a poorly written article, this headline isn’t good journalism. No credible news writer would write that. It should read, “Cynthia McKinney Says Aunt Died From Insurance Company Interference.”

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