Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And Speaking About Who Should Have a Liver Transplant...

Just days ago a US District Court juddge ruled that an imprisoned inmate will not receive a liver transplant because the local hospital/transplant center determined he "was not a good transplant candidate, citing a lack of a support system, inadequate follow-up care in prison and other factors..." According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the government was willing to pay for the procedure but couldn't find a hospital to perform the transplant.

Given my last post about priority ranking for liver transplants, let's consider this inmate's potential priority ranking. Ronald "Joey" Sellers has Hepatitis C and is in end-stage liver failure (the article didn't report his MELD score). His brother and son have offered to donate portions of their livers for a partial liver transplant, if this type of transplant is feasible. And, as noted above, payment for the transplant and first year expenses (estimated at $450,000) has been guaranteed by the US government.

Is it fair and/or reasonable that the US government would spend nearly half-a-million dollars for this life-saving surgery, given that federal prosecutors say they will "seek the death penalty against him" when he goes to trial?

Where's the logic in this - if, that is, logical considerations like expected transplant outcomes are a main factor for determining liver transplant priority?

A bit more about Mr. Sellers, who is "...accused of heading the Aryan Warriors inside Nevada prisons. Under his leadership, the gang distributed methamphetamine, sought to corrupt prison guards and assaulted fellow prisoners in racially motivated attacks that left one inmate dead, federal authorities said."

We've reached the deep end of the pool, my friends. Slogging around down here is bound to get messy - but it's far more interesting than what goes on in the safer, shallow end.

What do you think? How 'bout taxpayer outrage at spending this kind of money in this way, especially given the current health care debate. I volunteer with a woman whose brother-in-law died of liver disease because he couldn't pay for a transplant and to the best of my knowledge, he was an upstanding citizen who simply didn't have adequate (if any) health insurance. The government wouldn't pay for his transplant - but will cover Sellers'.

It's a lot to ponder before I have my first cup of coffee this morning.

Photo by Cyan Li

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