Georgia Teen Denied Heart Transplant Due To Bad Grades

A Georgia teen given only months to live is denied a heart transplant due to bad grades.

Sometimes, there is a health care story in which there are no real politics involved, just pure rage.  In this case, a Georgia teen was recently discovered to have an enlarged heart, with a terminal prognosis without a heart transplant.  However, the hospital where the teen was staying told him that he did not qualify for the organ transplant list, due to "a history of non-compliance."  It is suspected that the reason why is because of low grades and having a couple run-ins with the law.  This means that the teenager is being denied a heart transplant, and is being sent home with a death sentence.

Anthony Stokes went to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, a hospital in downtown Atlanta, with heart trouble.  When doctors found out about the enlarged heart, they gave Stokes less than six months to live, even with medication to ease the heart troubles.  However, according to Stokes' family, when they looked at previous history, they determined that he did not show any proof that he would continue taking his medication, and attend follow-up appointments to make sure the heart is working, thus denying him a place on the transplant waiting list.

The national organ transplant list has a set of rules, but often leaves local organizations and agencies to handle the specifics of who is allowed on the transplant list or not.  The argument doctors made here is that LifeLink of Georgia, the agency responsible for handling organ transplants in that state, can systematically deny people organ transplants because of their personal behavior or history.  So, if you are caught drinking and driving, or have a bad credit history, or (in Stokes' case) have a history of poor grades, those are grounds for being denied an organ transplant down the line. 

One could argue the moral implications of whether one should be given priority or even a place on the organ transplant list based on whether they will survive longer or not.  There are plenty of cases where an organ transplant will only add a year or two to one's life, as is evident by Steve Jobs' liver transplant four years ago, or by an Oregon death-row inmate's request for a new kidney.  But that's not the problem with Anthony Stokes.  Anthony Stokes is being denied an organ transplant because of his prior behavior.  This transplant will likely let him live a full life, and he is being denied that wish because he had a history of bad grades. 

Do we impose the death penalty for speeding?  No.  Do we deny prisoners basic health care because they were convicted of a crime?  No, and that is actually illegal due to a Supreme Court ruling.  So why is it that someone who has not been jailed, who has only had some trouble with the law, and whose worst offense beyond that is poor school, gets denied the right to live a full life?  There's no conceivable explanation for this that would not incite rage.

(Media Sources:  Trygve Berge, WSB-TV)

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