Erin Gilmer, an attorney and consultant to hospitals on medical privacy and compassionate health care, died on July 7, 2021 at the young age of 38. The cause of death was suicide. Ms. Gilmer suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, and occipital neuralgia. She was divorced and estranged from her parents.
She was an advocate for patients and an expert in that area who shared her knowledge for no cost online. Despite being an attorney and consultant, she struggled financially, confessing to reliance on food stamps. In a 2014 speech at a Stanford medical conference she told attendees that when she could not make ends meet, “I would disguise myself in my nice white-girl clothes and go to the salad bar and ask for a new plate as if I had already paid.” The Barometer is unclear on what constitutes “white-girl clothes” and why they are a disguise for purloining at a salad bar.
She added, “I’m not proud of it, but I’m desperate. It’s survival of the fittest.” Clay Risen, “Erin Gilmer, 38, Lawyer and Disability Rights Activist,” New York Times, July 19, 2021, p. B6.
Sometimes those who do much good for so many feel free to cross a few ethical lines here and there in the name of achieving those good things or to just survive. However, survival for some depends on that salad bar staying afloat. You get enough clean-plate faux diners and the salad bar’s margins take a dive. If everyone behaved as Ms. Gilmer did, well, patient advocacy would be irrelevant. Survival of the fittest. There is some irony here.
Nonetheless, RIP, Erin Gilmer, RIP.