Don’t Deprive People With Disabilities of Life-Saving Medical Care!

30-year-old Misty Cargill died in her sleep this past Saturday. Her family, her boyfriend, Mike Bishop, and a crowd of friends filled the Chisholm Trail Church of Christ in Duncan, Oklahoma, on Tuesday. Cargill, who had a mild intellectual disability, had lived a quiet life, working at a factory packing meters for the oil fields, going to church and playing in a bowling league. She found herself an unlikely disability rights advocate in 2006 when she was turned down for a kidney transplant on the basis on her disability.

In 2006, Oklahoma University Medical Center in Oklahoma City refused her the transplant because a “woman with a mild intellectual disability did not have the mental competency to make an informed decision to choose a transplant.”

Yes, that is what Cargill was told.

NPR’s Joseph Shapiro reported on Cargill’s story in 2006 and many, many, were outraged. A hospital in Galveston, Texas, offered to put her on its list for a transplant and no one less than the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Christmas day. “Someone determines that people with intellectual disabilities are inferior, human beings of lesser value, the last priority,” Shriver wrote; Cargill had been refused because she was “thought not to matter quite as much as other people.”

Shriver’s words expressed the ugly truth about how people really think about individuals with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. Shapiro also found that

…about 60 percent of transplant centers reported they’d have serious reservations about giving a kidney to someone with a mild to moderate intellectual disability. Kidneys are in short supply and doctors must determine who is most likely to thrive with one. Often medical professionals figure that someone with an intellectual disability will not be capable of doing things like faithfully taking all the medications required for a lifetime after receiving a transplant.

Shapiro discovered that just the reverse is the case after speaking to Steven Reiss, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. Reiss’s research found that “when people with intellectual disabilities get transplants, they have results just as good, or better, than anyone else,” in part because their medical care is overseen by staff who take them to doctor’s appointments and make sure they take their medications.

Cargill’s kidney function improved and for a time she no longer needed the transplant. After her health declined again, she was again in need of a transplant and was placed on another Oklahoma hospital’s waiting list.

What if she had gotten the first transplant, or had not have had to go through the stress of being refused it?

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital at first refused to give 2-year-old Amelia, who has Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome, a kidney transplant because of her disabilities. After parents of children with disabilities and disability right advocates raised a huge outcry, the hospital said it would reconsider.

But as both Amelia’s and Missy Cargill’s experience show, people with intellectual and other disabilities are too often not seen as “qualifying” for access to medical care that is their basic human right. Please sign the petition and tell organ transplant centers that they cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities.

Related Care2 Coverage

Good News! Child With Disabilities May Get Kidney Transplant

Your Unborn Baby’s Genetic Code: Do You Want To Know?

UPDATE: Family Allowed Entry To Australia After Rejection Over Daughter’s Autism



Photo by opensourceway


Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

The real issue there just are not enough organs to go around.

Randy W.
Randy W5 years ago

Thank you for presenting this petition on such an important issue. We must act as a voice to those among us who do not have one....

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne5 years ago

This is simply outrageous and is a violation of their civil rights.

Bhakti Pandya
Bhakti Pandya5 years ago


RobynRobyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

This just makes me grateful that I live in a country that actually has government subsidized healthcare and cannot disallow a transplant because that person is disabled.
*hugs medicare card*

Robin T.
Robin T.5 years ago

Transplants are not the only medical treatments denied, those who have cognitive disabilities are not the only ones denied life-saving treatment. I have seen a diabetic child denied care because his mother earned a few dollars over the limit for MediCal (Medicaid in California), though her employer did not offer health insurance. I gave them supplies and insulin myself, and directed the mom to every medical assistance program I could locate, but she still could not get consistent care for her son. He was home-schooled, too, because there are no school nurses anymore and the school district refused to allow him to have his "drug paraphernalia" at school. (I had similar experiences as a teen) He died before he finished his diploma. This boy DIED because of the system of profit-driven health care!

Dawn G.
Dawn G5 years ago

I know the temptation is to cry eugenics, and in some cases that might be true. But let me ask you this:

You have only two livers and four people who need transplants...
The first person is laid off and on Medicaid (meaning taxpayers pay for the transplant)
The second person has great insurance, but a congenital health problem that might recur after transplant
The third person is an award-winning scientist working on a very important vaccine, who also happens to be a closet alcoholic
The fourth person is a mildly retarded person with part time employment and disability coverage.

Which two get the livers? Which two will you let die?

I don't claim to have the answers, but these are the kinds of dilemmas faced by transplant doctors every day. With significantly fewer organs than people who need them, it is never simple, and someone always loses. That's just how it is when there is not enough to go around. Even single payer health care won't fix this problem.

Arlene A.
Arlene A.5 years ago

A lot of disabled people are denied state insurance in TN. My neighbor was told that she was $10 over the income limit, her sister that has the same disease was told some other reason; there are many different reasons to disqualify us from healthcare.

marc page
Marc P5 years ago

This is the face of modern day eugenics. Make no mistake. It is (Not so...) cleverly hidden. But that does not change the reality. 1930's Germany anyone?

Nancy Black
Nancy Black5 years ago

This sounds like Nazi Germany; there is no reason to discriminate against a person who is intellectually or otherwise challenged.When we allow this to happen, we are allowing our society to devalue the worth of someone's life. Not right, life is subjective, but the value of it is not.