I was happy to hear that former VP Dick Cheney successfully underwent heart transplant surgery. I was also very glad that he waited in line like everyone else—20 months. The organ transplant triage system should not be a respecter of persons. Every potential organ recipient, whether pauper, Steve Jobs (who legally gamed the system to obtain his liver more quickly), or the former Vice President of the United States, should be treated alike.
Some, however, are saying that Cheney’s age should have perhaps disqualified him. But people his age do just fine with transplants. From the WEB MD story:
The question is: how does someone in his 70s fare after such major surgery? Quite well, actually, and the latest research suggests that people over 70 do just as well as younger people after a heart transplant.
Moreover, Cheney was within current guidelines for receiving a new heart, and indeed, waited longer than the average patient. From the ABC story:
Some medical centers will not perform a heart transplant on patient over 65, but other major centers will perform transplants on patients who are as old as 72. In any case, transplants at Cheney’s age are not unheard of: Last year 332 heart transplants were performed on people over 65, and according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 14 percent of recepients are over the age of 65. “Patients from 18 all the way up to 71 years old, are on the same national list and you’re listed on the basis of medical urgency and then how long you’ve been waiting,” said Dr. Jonathan Chen, an adjunct associate professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York.
I am not comfortable with rationing based on age. If a 75-year-old has the stamina to benefit, why shouldn’t he or she be allowed in the line like everyone else?
In any event, regardless of our political persuasion, let’s lift a glass to the good health of the former vice president. I am very pleased that when it came to a transplant, he was not given special treatment. And three cheers to the anonymous donor who truly gave the gift of life.