Crystal Lee was a real pain in the ass for corporations, for a long time. The corporations couldn’t have her offed, because that would bring some really awful PR (and maybe even criminal prosecution.)

What the corporations Crystal Lee irritated could not do, private insurance has accomplished. It is with great sadness that tonight I found out that Crystal Lee is yet another victim of the healthcare rationing done every day by private insurers. She is only one among thousands, of course, and few of them have a voice. They are drags on the profit margins, and nobody really cares if they live or they die, so private insurers let them die. It’s good for the bottom line, after all.

Rest well, Crystal Lee. I wish someone had been able to do for you what you did for so many of us.

The woman whose life inspired the 1979 film Norma Rae has died of cancer after struggling with her health insurance company, which had delayed her treatment.

Crystal Lee Sutton was 68. She had struggled for several years with meningioma, a form of brain cancer.

She became a hero to the labor movement in the 1970s, when she took on her employer, a North Carolina textile plant, and unionized the factory floor. Her story became famous nationwide in 1975 after New York Times reporter Hank Leiferman wrote Crystal Lee: A Woman of Inheritance.

In 1979, her story was turned into the movie Norma Rae, a thinly-veiled fictional adaptation of Sutton’s struggle to unionize the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Sally Field won an Oscar for her portrayal of the character inspired by Sutton.

As Daily Kos blogger hissyspit points out, last year Sutton gave an interview to the press where she described a struggle with her health insurer over treatment. The Times-News in Burlington, North Carolina, wrote in 2008:

[Sutton] went two months without possible life-saving medications because her insurance wouldn’t cover it, another example of abusing the working poor, she said.

“How in the world can it take so long to find out (whether they would cover the medicine or not) when it could be a matter of life or death,” she said. “It is almost like, in a way, committing murder.”

She eventually received the medication, but the cancer is taking a toll on her strong will and solid frame.

In 2008, the North Carolina branch of the AFL-CIO urged supporters to donate money to Sutton’s medical fund. On its Web site, the union had stated that “after initially being denied coverage by her insurance company for life saving treatment, Sutton is now on drug and chemo therapies and has undergone two surgeries.”

Now please, healthscare cretins, let’s discuss death panels, shall we? You can give me your racist delusional fantasies, and I can give you real-world examples.

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