Some heart for a teen in need

Posted at: 08/13/2013 2:16 PM
By: Benita Zahn

Another organ transplant flap involving a child. First it was the 10 year old girl who needed, and eventually received, a lung transplant. Now it's a 15 year old boy - Anthony Stokes from Georgia - who needs a heart transplant. Stokes has been denied because he's been deemed 'non-compliant' meaning, he hasn't been good about following medical instructions up until now.

Hello?! He's a teen. Teens don't want to different from their peers and being sick is being different. Ask parents of children with diabetes how tough it can be to get them to be 'compliant'. I know of a teen whose life was lost to diabetes because that teen kept the disease a secret from friends; didn't take prescribed insulin while away with a group and by the time medical treatment arrived, it was too late.

So, back to the 15 year old in need of a heart transplant. It would seem that a teen, even a previously non compliant one, might,  if you will, be 'scared straight' into compliance when faced with a life threatening situation like the need for a new heart.

The respected bio-ethicist Art Caplan makes that argument in a recent commentary. As he points out, "It is well-known that teenagers are among the worst group in terms of complying with doctors orders " as he goes on to argue for the teen to be considered for transplant.

Like Caplan, I hope that whatever person is in charge of making a determination as to who can or can't be considered for a transplant has a change of heart in this case. Moreover, I hope that as we proceed,  children and their perceptions of the world - are taken into consideration when life and death decisions are made by others.  I suspect that when organ transplantation was first conceived, no one really considered that pint sized patients would be recipients.