Hospital Initially Denied Teen A Heart Transplant Because Of Low Grades In School

black teen heart transplant

Imagine your teenage son or daughter being diagnosed with a life-threatening enlarged heart that can only be cured with a transplant. Now imagine them being denied that transplant and being sentenced to death merely because of low grades in school and minor legal trouble. What would you do? Would you be angry? Would you reach out to the public for help? Well, that’s what a 15-year-old boy’s parents are doing in Georgia after Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta denied their son the transplant he desperately needs.

Anthony Stokes currently has about six months to live, according to his doctors. That means he needs a new heart soon or he will die. But he is being denied a heart transplant because the hospital has declared him to be a “non-compliant” patient. Why, you ask? The doctors refuse to say but his family knows why. According to Anthony’s mom, Melencia Hamilton, the doctors rejected his bid for a transplant because he has low grades and some legal trouble.

WSBTV reports that family and friends aren’t buying the explanation, or lack thereof:

“‘The non-compliance is fabricating, because they don’t want to give him a heart,’ family friend Mack Major told Thomas. “This is unacceptable because he must lose his life because of a non-compliance.'”

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After days of pressure, including pressure from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the hospital finally added Anthony’s name to the transplant list. But the question remains, why was he denied in the first place? ThinkProgress noted that “…his story fits into a larger pattern of racially-motivated skepticism about young black men. The routine criminalization of black youth — thanks in large part to the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline,” which funnels a disproportionate number of black teens into the justice system for minor infractions — ensures that teens like Anthony are often seen as threats. And once society labels those kids as criminal, suspect, or “non-compliant,” their lives are typically considered to have less value.”

ThinkProgress is absolutely spot on. Young black men have been increasingly stereotyped as threats. So, was the hospital being racist when it denied Anthony a transplant? It certainly seems that way, considering doctors refused to go any further than to say that Anthony has low grades and legal problems. Except that Anthony is 15, and most teenagers get into trouble at some point and many of them also have bad grades. Nevertheless, the real point here is that Anthony is still just a kid and a hospital told this kid he must die because he wasn’t excelling at school as well as they would like. To me, it just sounds like some kind of racist code in which “low grades and legal trouble” means “you’re a young black kid.”

It’s understandable that the keepers of the transplant list have strict guidelines. But denying a teenager a transplant because he acts like a teenager is just plain heartless. It’s hard to believe that doctors make such decisions based on school grades for every patient. The fact is, one’s grades in school do not determine who a person is. There are many people who get bad grades in school who grow up to be good people. I’m sure even doctors have gotten bad grades when they were in high school. The same applies for those who have brushes with the law as well. Even though Dick Cheney broke many laws while Vice-President (torture, lying to the American people and Congress, etc…), he was given the chance to live via heart transplant just last year. Even some prisoners convicted of rape and murder have received organ transplants while behind bars serving their time. So what makes Anthony’s case so different that he has to be denied?