Decision to Give Inmate Heart Transplant Based on Medical, Not Social, Criteria, Stanford Says
With people nationwide expressing "outrage" that a California prison inmate received a heart transplant while thousands of law-abiding citizens remain on an organ waiting list, officials at Stanford University Medical Center have said that medical criteria -- not social criteria -- were the deciding factors in the decision, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Podger, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/3). The unnamed 31-year-old inmate, serving a 14-year sentence for a 1996 robbery in Los Angeles, received a new heart during an operation at Stanford Medical Center on Jan. 3. Although the heart transplant cost "a little more than $200,000," the total medical costs, including subsequent care, could reach $1 million, California officials said (California Healthline, 1/31). The decision to give a "scarce resource" to someone "who has broken his pact with society" stirred debate nationwide, but many medical experts say that such a decision is made solely on medical criteria. "I don't ask if the [recipient] is a bad guy or a good guy or an alcoholic -- just who will live longest with a good quality of life," Dr. Lawrence Schneiderman, a medical professor at the University of California-San Diego, said. According to Anne Paschke, a spokesperson for the United Network for Organ Sharing, which administers a database of available organs and potential recipients, decisions on who receives a transplant organ are "made based on factors like blood and tissue type" and the length of a potential recipient's wait. "Just like our computer system has no idea if you're in prison, it has no idea if you are famous or if you are wealthy. We allocate based on medical need," Paschke said (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.