A recent Change.org petition seeks to overturn, through Congress, a University of Pennsylvania decision denying a 23-year-old autistic man a chance to receive a heart transplant. Here’s the text of the letter:
My son Paul was denied placement on the heart transplant list because of his mental disability. The doctor was more interested in the fact that he could not name all his medications (he takes 19 at the present time) and the Princess Peach doll he carries for comfort, than the fact that he has never smoked or drank alcohol. Where will the discrimination end?
Paul is a wonderful boy that has taken his mental and physical illness in stride. He has just completed his first novel geared toward preteens. We are now in the process of having it self-published. This is really the only thing that keeps his mind off of his mortality. How do I explain to him why he can’t have a new heart?
Can you help us tell the Transplant Committee they are wrong and he deserves the chance to grow old and watch his two young nephews grow up?
I have a lot of sympathy for autistic people. I’m pretty sure I suffer from a mild form of it myself (Asperger’s). Some members of my family are passionate about helping those who suffer from it. But the fact remains that there are far more people in need of heart transplants than there are hearts. Somebody has to decide whose life is worth more and whose less.
If the petition is successful, it doesn’t mean that there will be less discrimination; it only means that somebody else (with less political clout) will be discriminated against. I am not saying that the mother doesn’t have a case. I do wonder if she could look the person in the eye, who would die in lieu of her son, and tell him that his life is worth less than that of her son.
I’m glad I don’t have to choose who deserves a new heart and who does not. But I do wish I could have some control over who would get my heart in the event of my untimely death. Just as I can write my will so that certain people will inherit my earthly possessions, so should I be able to dictate who should get my organs. If I want only Jews to benefit from them, my wish should be honored. Somebody else may limit beneficiaries to those of their own community, their own church or their own clan. As it stands, once you become an organ donor, you relinquish all control over who benefits. If such a policy were practiced, autistic people could have their own pool of donors and there would be no petition.
We all must discriminate. Those who have a “discrimination is bad” attitude live in a grocery store fantasy world where abundance is the rule and the only challenge is distribution. While such a world might seem like a utopia, it would probably be a short-lived one. The most powerful forces of evolution would become impotent. The result would ultimately be a much diminished and weakened humanity. Through dysgenics, we would grow more and more vulnerable until, one day, some sort of bug or crises would wipe us out. But we do not live in such a world. Not yet anyway. The rule of TANSTAAFL still applies. Thank goodness for that; it forces us to discriminate.