a young woman in Oklahoma named Misty Cargill who suffers from mild mental retardation and abnormally small kidneys.
Misty Cargill needs a kidney transplant.
Out of 69,000 Americans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, only about 16,000 will receive one this year. No one knows who will be next to get a kidney, but Misty knows it won't be her. She knows because she can't get on the list.
Because of her mental disability.
Misty Cargill was rejected from the list, despite the fact that she meets all the criteria for transplant. She's within the correct age and weight range, and aside from the fact that she will need a kidney very soon, she is otherwise in good health. She has Medicaid and is therefore able to pay for the operation and the follow-up anti-rejection medications. A patient must be capable of telling their doctors how they feel and of taking the medications that will prevent organ rejection. Cargill can do so; she's employed and lives in an assisted living community, where she lives mostly independently but with medical supervision.
But even though the state of Oklahoma considers Misty competent to make her own decisions, the Oklahoma University Medical Center transplant center rejected her referral on the grounds that she might not have the mental capacity to give informed consent to have the operation. They even went so far as to claim that her own doctors declared her incompetent to give informed consent, a claim denied by her personal physician and her kidney doctor, who say that she is a good candidate for transplant and could die without it.
In the story, an expert on developmental disabilities at Ohio State, Steven Reiss, said exactly what I was thinking: doctors appear to be making decisions based not on medical concerns, but a discriminatory "quality of life" judgment.
"There's thinking out there that some people's lives are more valuable than others," he said. "It's very hard to keep that thinking totally out of the transplant process."
One of the tests we have not put Schuyler through is a cognitive evaluation, an IQ test. There are plenty of good reasons not to and not really any compelling reasons to do so. She's receiving the services she needs in her school, above and beyond, in fact, so a test showing some sort of diminished cognitive capacity isn't going to help her get more help. More importantly, an IQ test administered on a non-verbal subject is extremely subjective and dependent upon the independent interpretive judgment of the test administrator. When we saw Dr. Dobyns in Chicago, he warned that such a test should only be administered by a qualified pediatric psychiatrist, and even then we should take the test results with a grain of salt.
I have no idea how profoundly Schuyler's cognitive abilities are affected by her monster, although my gut feeling (and those of the medical evaluators who have seen her before) is that her impairment is mild and probably due more to her communications difficulty and developmental delay than to her brain malformation.
Today, it suddenly became clear once again why we were correct not to have such a test administered to Schuyler, and why we likely never will. Today, I heard the story of Misty Cargill, a young woman who goes to a job and has a boyfriend who takes her to the movies and who bowls in a league and who can't get a life-saving procedure because someone somewhere has decided that she's retarded, and retards don't deserve to live as much as the rest of us. Today, I remembered the emails I have gotten, not many but a few, suggesting that Schuyler's class is a drain on the resources of the public schools, and that she and the other members of her box class should be institutionalized (and marginalized), not mainstreamed.
It's a hard, rough, shitty world for broken people. Don't you ever doubt that, not for a goddamned second.