The Poor Unfortunates
Inspired by Chekhov’s writing about his own work as a doctor caring for the poor, Nuila introduces us to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, and the undocumented and poor people it serves within the larger chassis of Houston politics, the Texas medical establishment, and the United States health care system.
Using the human body’s organ system as a narrative framework and first-hand accounts of Ben Taub patients as guideposts, Nuila shows how looming bureaucratic structures and governmental regulations conflict with the moral duty of doctoring. How do medical staff offer care and hope to patients, families, and society when patients’ needs—as routine as dialysis or as dire as a brain tumor—become embroiled in the semantics of citizenship status, Medicaid qualification, financial resources, obstructions of bureaucracy outside of Ben Taub’s walls, and medical trends originating outside the United States?
Nuila’s work finds kinship among Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. Similar to these books, Nuila is focused on the disenfranchised, and the way American justice and medical systems continually fail the poor and sick and underserved in our country. But The Poor Unfortunates offers bedside accounts of real patients, and through these Nuila elucidates not only the medical issues facing Texans, but the systemic and legislative gridlock that prevents these real people from receiving the efficient, humane care they deserve. And Nuila’s book also offers hope. Ben Taub Hospital stands as an anomaly—in many cases, these individuals are able to get the help they need because Ben Taub has adapted to service them. This Houston hospital is now lauded as one of the best trauma care facilities in the country—how is this possible?
Claire Nozieres manages the translation rights for The Poor Unfortunates