The Bioethics of Denying Patients Organ Transplants

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

premature baby, hands (flickr: Matt Davis)

Three-year-old Amelia Rivera has a rare genetic disease called Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. She suffers from mental impairment, epileptic-like seizures, and she can't walk or talk. Besides her illness she's in desperate need of a kidney transplant to live to see her fourth birthday. But the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Amelia is treated, told Amelia’s family that they would not perform a transplant even if a family member donates a kidney. The reason, according to her mother's blog, is because she is “mentally retarded.”

Dr. Art Caplan is a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, who is familiar with the ethical questions surrounding transplant cases.


Dr. Art Caplan

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [2]

Molly from New Jersey

CHOP and HUP have great reputations for successful kidney transplants. There are several things that go into getting that kind of reputation - skilled doctors and transplant teams, excellent facilities, and finding ways to redirect patients that have less than a stellar chance at a successful transplant. This can be done most effectively by refusing to transplant until additional tests are run, having to wait weeks for tests, etc. Eventually the potential recipient will either become sicker, and no longer be a candidate, or they will get frustrated enough to seek out another doctor at another hospital. About 15 years ago, this happened to my husband and I, who had both been admitted for a living donor transplant the following day, until we were told there was a problem, and additional tests were needed for the recipient, but the next available appointment was about a month away. We went to another doctor in NJ, who ran the tests, said all was fine, performed the transplant, and my husband lived another seven years, with no further kidney problems. However, the experience was an eye-opener. My guess is that the child has a less than stellar chance at a successful transplant, and they're coming up with other reasons to disqualify her, to avoid a black mark on their record.

Jan. 19 2012 12:09 PM

When interviewing a physician or a technically-oriented Ph.D., it is really annoying to hear Celeste Headlee refer to guests by their first names, instead of "Doctor." She does it all the time, including with public officials whose titles (Senator, Congressman, Officer, etc.) really ought to be included in the conversation. Not so much out of any false sense of entitlement but just for quick, easy and clear refefrence as to who the subjects are.

Jan. 18 2012 09:18 AM

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