When you deny a kid a heart transplant, you better have a good reason why

My inbox is filled with emails about this:

A Georgia teenager needs a lifesaving heart transplant, but his family says low grades and trouble with the law have kept him off the transplant list.

Doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston told the family of 15-year-old Anthony Stokes that they won’t put him on the transplant list because of his history of “noncompliance,” according to ABC’s Atlanta affiliate WSBTV.

“They said they don’t have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups,” Melencia Hamilton, Anthony’s mother, told WSBTV.

Anthony has an enlarged heart and has been given six months to live, according to WSBTV.

I’ll admit freely that I don’t have a lot of information here by which to judge. But a few facts seem clear. The boy in question could be placed on the list. There’s nothing about his age or his condition that would prohibit his receiving a transplant. It also appears that the hospital isn’t denying the basic facts here:

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spokeswoman Patty Gregory said in a statement, “The well-being of our patients is always our first priority. We are continuing to work with this family and looking at all options regarding this patient’s health care. We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind.”

It’s entirely possible that there is a legitimate and defensible reason for denying the transplant to Anthony. But it better be a good one. We transplant adults all the time for self-inflicted disease. Alcoholics can still get liver transplants. Many of them return to drinking after their transplant. Poor past choices are not normally a good reason to deny someone a transplant.

If you’re going to deny a kid a heart, you better be prepared to explain why. I hope people will continue to follow this.


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