Karen Corby is trying to get a heart transplant for her 23-year-old son, who is on the spectrum. There is an online petition. Joslyn Gray reports at strollerderby:
According to the Corbys, and according to a letter from Penn Medicine which they shared with me, Paul has been denied the placement in large part because he is autistic.
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.
The letter from the transplant physician at PennMedicine, part of the University of Pennsylvania, states:
“I have recommended against transplant given his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures, and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.”The post avoid sensationalism, however, by providing professional perspectives:
Meanwhile, a 2006 study out of Ohio State University found that organ transplants on patients with cognitive impairment are equally likely to be successful as on other patients.
Available donor hearts are a precious resource, said noted heart transplant expert Dr. Jay Cohn, MD, FACC in an email to me. Dr. Cohn is a Professor of Medicine at University of Minnesota Medical School, the Director of the Rasmussen Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, and Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Heart Failure Society of America.
“The decision by this transplant program to reject him does not imply that they would reject all candidates with autism,” Dr. Cohn added. “Furthermore, each program has its own criteria and other programs might reasonably come to a different conclusion. Institutional care in selecting what they deem as suitable selection of patients for the precious commodity of a donor heart should be encouraged, not criticized. This family might well approach a different center to seek a different judgment.“The decision to recommend heart transplant is an individual judgment based on many factors,” explained Dr. Cohn in his email, “including the overall health and prognosis of the recipient, the impact of co-morbidity on the procedure risk and the post-op management, the potential interaction of background drug therapy on the drugs necessary to inhibit rejection, need for follow-up, etc. These issues cannot be captured in a single diagnostic term such as ‘autism.’"