Hospital That Denied 'Undeserving Mentally Retarded' Girl Kidney Transplant Won't Save Her Life With 'We're Sorry'

sorryBetter late than never, I guess, but I would still have a hard time accepting the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's apology as gracefully as Amelia Rivera's parents. The hospital initially denied the 3-year-old girl a kidney transplant because she is, in their words, "mentally retarded."

Amelia is not, in fact, "mentally retarded." She was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes delayed physical and intellectual growth and development, seizures, and a variety of other issues; including, in Amelia's case, a life-threatening kidney condition.

Without a transplant, doctors expected Amelia to live another year at best. But when her mother Chrissy met with a doctor and social worker at CHOP, she was told that Amelia's mental delays made her "ineligible" for a transplant.


Understandably heartbroken and outraged, Chrissy blogged about the experience, which turned out to be an incredibly wise move. Her story got the attention of thousands of people, and their shocked, angry reactions got the attention of (surprise!) the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. About time! In a statement, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Michael Apkon offered the following explanation:

"As an organization, we regret that we communicated in a manner that did not clearly reflect our policies or intent and apologize for the Riveras' experience. While we can unequivocally state that we do not disqualify transplant patients on the basis of intellectual ability... this event underscores the importance of our responsibility to effectively communicate with families."

In other words, the hospital is sorry for being incredibly insensitive -- but they're not making any promises:

"Both the family and CHOP want to emphasize that no decision on Amelia's candidacy for a transplant has yet been made. Evaluation for possible transplant is a long and involved process. Decisions are never made in a single visit."

I understand this issue is a complicated one and there are no easy answers. But I probably couldn't manage that level of objectivity if I was Amelia's mom. That's why I'm so amazed by Chrissy and her husband Joe's response to the hospital's apology:

"Despite an unfortunate encounter a few weeks ago, we hold The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in high regard. We've had a three year relationship with the hospital and are pleased with the care that Amelia has received."

I'm sure they're hoping the hospital will decide to give Amelia the transplant, and I hope they do. But if it doesn't go that way, I'm afraid that "apology" will end up being nothing more than too little, too late.

How would you react to the hospital's apology if you were Amelia's mom or dad?


Image via butupa/Flickr

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