Erin Gilmer, a disability rights attorney and activist who campaigned for medical privacy, lower drug prices, and a more compassionate health system when faced with a cascade of illnesses that left her unable to work for long periods of time or even left her in bed, died in July 7 in Centennial, Colorado. She was 38.
Anne Marie Mercurio, a friend to whom Gilmer had given power of attorney, said the cause was suicide.
First in Texas and later in Colorado, where she ran her own law firm, Gilmer pushed for legislation that would better align health care providers with patient needs, including a state bill passed in 2019 that allows Colorado pharmacists to provide certain drugs without a current prescription, if the patient’s doctor cannot be reached.
She has been a frequent consultant to hospitals, universities and pharmaceutical companies, bringing with her extensive knowledge of health policy and even more extensive first-hand experience as a patient.
At conferences and on social media, she used her own life to illustrate the humiliations and difficulties she believed were inherent in the modern medical system, where she believed that patients and doctors alike were treated like cogs in a machine.
Her conditions included rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, borderline personality disorder, and occipital neuralgia, which causes severely painful headaches. Her long medical record challenged doctors who were used to approaching patients on 15-minute visits, and she said it was often dismissed as “difficult” just for trying to stand up for herself.
“Too often patients have to ask themselves, ‘Will they believe me?’” She wrote on Twitter in May. “’Will you help me? Will they cause further trauma? Will they listen and understand? ‘ ”
She often spoke of her financial troubles; Despite her law degree, she is dependent on food stamps. But she admitted that her breed gave her the privilege of cutting curves.