Hospital: No Kidney Transplant For Girl With Disabilities

Parents of children with disabilities and disability rights advocates are raising a huge outcry after a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) denied 2-year-old Amelia, who has Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome, a kidney transplant. Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome is a genetic condition occurring in 1 in 50,000 individuals; those with it have a “characteristic facial appearance, delayed growth and development, intellectual disability, and seizures.”

In a post entitled Brick Walls, Chrissy Rivera, Amelia’s mother, writes that her daughter’s doctor had told them that she would need a kidney transplant in 6 months to a year. Rivera then describes how another doctor accompanied by a social worker told her and her husband, Joe — Amelia had fallen asleep in her stroller — that Amelia would not be “eligible” for a transplant even with a family donor because she is “..already brain damaged and mentally retarded.” Rivera recounts a very painful exchange that followed during which she said:

ôSo you mean to tell me that as a doctor, you are not recommending the transplant, and when her kidneys fail in six months to a year, you want me to let her die because she is mentally retarded? There is no other medical reason for her not to have this transplant other than she is MENTALLY RETARDED!ö

Terri Mauro at the blog on special needs children and Ellen Seidman at Love That Max are among those who have expressed shock at the denial of a necessary medical procedure for Amelia due to her disabiliity. Seidman cites a 2006 ástudy according to which “beforeáthe ’90s, transplants were considered inadvisable for those with cognitive impairments” and also a 2004 questionnaire thatáThe Arc (the US’s largest parent organization for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities) sent to members that found that “80 percent of people believed that those with cognitive disabilities are discriminated against when it comes to to organ transplant operations.”

CHOP has issued a statement on its Facebook page in which the hospital says that

We want you to know thatáCHOP does not have any criteria which exclude patients from being considered for transplant solely on the basis of their cognitive status. Transplant programs at CHOP have never declined a patient for transplant based solely on their cognitive status and we have performed transplants on many children with disabilities and impairments.

The statement also says that “all determinations of eligibility for transplantation are treated on an individual basis” using a “non-discriminatory approach, after a multidisciplinary assessment and discussion, which is the standard of practice throughout the country.”

This is all very reasonable — and, not surprisingly, parents are responding that it’s all (as it is) “empty words” and a “bunch of backside-covering PR-speak.”áElizabeth Aquino points out that CHOP is violating theáUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 25 on health says that parties are to “recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability.” Article 10 is about the right to life and reaffirms that “every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

You do have to wonder what’s going on when a hospital — when the medical profession — denies a life-saving medical procedure for a child with disabilities.

Related Care2 Coverage

Deputies Punch Homeless, Mentally Ill Woman on Bus

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The Drugging of the Developmentally Disabled in State Institutions


Photo by Jeffrey N. Vinokur via Wikimedia Commons


Harry Norris
Harry Norris4 years ago

Usually, children with disabilities are not considered as the right candidate for kidney transplant. Although it’s a safe process, but facing such surgery cannot be easy for anyone. However, if you still have any doubts regarding to the eligibility of this surgical procedure, you can explore your query with the renowned professionals of this field at Justsavelives transplant center .I hope it could be of help.

Tamie R.
Tamie R4 years ago

There must be more facts to this than we have....I would not want to be in these parents shoes. I know when my children were young, I used to tell them to be careful all the time. I told them God doesn't make replacement parts, to which my brother replied, sure he does, but someone has to die to give it to you.....thought provoking to say the least.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Kristina, for Sharing this!

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago

I am grateful I do NOT have to make these decisions. It must be very difficult for ALL those involved

joe M.
joe MARTINEZ5 years ago

Eternal: There has been a change. Public opinion has won and CHOP has agreed to give the child a kidney, however, there extreme doubt that child prevailing poor health will prevent her from receiving the needed kidney. In other words medical profession feel that she will not survive the surgery. Apparently she has a failing heart also.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K6 years ago

For heaven's sake, people, y'all talk as if money grows on trees! It doesn't! Our resources are not unlimited. Even if private insurance paid for the operation, everybody's premiums will go up to accommodate all these foolish operations. Tell me, all of you, how much money should be spent on this child? Is there a limit? If so, why should there be a limit? You all talk as if limits are all sinful.

federico bortoletto

e' una vergogna...

Patricia Morrison

There may be more facts about the case that we do not know. If the denial is because the two year old girl is mentally retarded, the doctors better reread their oath again. The better make sure they are making their decision for the right reasons. This little girl deserves the chance to live a healthier life the same as everyone else.

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.