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Who Deserves a Kidney Transplant?

Amelia Rivera has made the news this week because her parents wrote a blogpost about doctors denying Amelia a kidney transplant on the basis of Amelia's "mental retardation." After an internet uproar, that decision is under review. Lisa Belkin has written about this story for the Huffington Post, and she argues:

The stark reality then, is that a kidney that goes to one patient means it does not go to another. Giving a kidney to Amelia means that someone, whose name you will probably never know, but who will be loved just as fiercely as Amelia is, won't get one in time.

Which is why there are rules – unemotional, clinical, detached rules – for a situation that is none of those things . . . In cold clinical terms this means that everything it takes to undergo a transplant – the medications, the repeated biopsy procedures afterwards, the constant monitoring and machinery – are difficult and sometimes impossible compared with a child who is less impaired. The less mobile a patient is, the far greater the likelihood that she will develop an infection, or pneumonia, or a host of other complications that make it probable that the transplant will eventually fail. Which, in those same cold clinical terms, would make it a waste of an organ.

I disagree, and I have written a response to this situation on the Huffington Post: "The Value of a Life Cut Short." It begins:

My best friend's little brother would have turned 28 today. He died in a car accident nearly ten years ago. I had seen him an hour earlier–sweaty from soccer practice, with his bright eyes and gangly body and earnest smile. And then he was gone.

A year later, I sat with my mother-in-law as she died from liver cancer. I moistened her parched lips. I wiped the brown vomit from her chin. I sang hymns and changed sheets and held her hand until it was time to say goodbye.

Both of their lives were cut short–his at the end of his senior year in high school, before college, before marriage, before a long list of adult sorrows and accomplishments, and hers in her mid-50's, before she had met her grandchildren. And yet both of their lives were also complete. Both of their lives were filled with joy and possibility. And both of their lives demonstrated a truth we try to ignore–that all of life is fragile and uncertain.

Click here to read the whole essay, which, I promise, gets back to Amelia Rivera in due time.


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