Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Will Anyone Contact Bill Frist for a Diagnosis?

Richard Blair, AllSpinZone: In 2005, Terri Schiavo lay brain dead in Florida nursing home, with only a feeding tube standing between her and release to what the religious right would terms as “home”. More than anything, that’s what I didn’t understand at the time about the evangelical movement that drove congress into a special session to draft a law to prevent removal of her feeding tube. The fundamentalists turned what should have been a private family affair into a national media circus, and prevented a suffering woman from “going home”.
Today in Florida, a 15-year old young man waits for a liver transplant. He’s been diagnosed with advanced liver disease, and apparently stands virtually no chance of recovery without a transplant. But a Florida hospital has denied him a spot on their transplant list, because the boy is not from a stable home. Yes, you read that right:
A disabled foster child whose liver is failing has been removed from a Central Florida hospital’s organ-transplant waiting list because hospital administrators fear the state’s shaky child-welfare system cannot ensure he has a permanent home in which to recover.
Shands Hospital in Gainesville removed the boy, 15, from a waiting list for organ recipients after administrators determined the boy’s unstable living conditions make him a poor candidate for a transplant, said Nick Cox, the Department of Children & Families regional administrator in the Tampa Bay area, where the boy lives…
Ok, so, where are Tony Perkins and James Dobson and the other fundamentalist leaders who were making such a stink when Terri Schiavo’s case was making headlines? Where is congress in terms of making a new law, exclusively for this boy, who has the chance at a long, full life if he receives the transplant?
Yes, we’ve been this way before. But something even more interesting struck me about this young man’s situation. He’s the son of a crack addict, who gave him up to family care shortly after he was born. He’s been in and out of the foster care system for his entire life. Most likely, he’s in an ethnic group that isn’t Caucasian. And according to the Miami Herald article:
He has been diagnosed with a developmental disability and often has difficulty controlling his behavior.
Bells and whistles went off immediately when I read this sentence. Children with these types of issues are frequently given medication to control their behavior (think Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs). One of the side effects of some of these types of medications is the potential for liver damage. So, as the boy bounced in and out of foster homes, was any pharmaceutical treatment he was receiving for his behavioral issues, no doubt sanctioned by the state, responsible for his liver problems? It’s a question that needs answers - is the State of Florida responsible for his condition?
One also has to wonder if Shands Hospital removing him from the transplant list was driven as much by medical economics as any true concern for the ability of the foster care system to ensure he receives adequate follow-up treatment.
There’s a lot to unpack in any story such as this one. But the bottom line is that the boy needs a liver to have any shot of reaching adulthood. The boy needs an advocacy group (religious or otherwise) to take up his cause. Will Family Research Council or Focus on the Family come to his aid? Will Bill Frist at least do a video diagnosis?
Don’t bet on it.
LSB: Where is the main stream media on this story?

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