At Issue: When an organ donor is a convicted criminal

12:00 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 Metro Atlanta / State news
A.J. Burgess was born a month too soon without a working kidney. His father Anthony Dickerson is a 110 percent match for an organ donation, but surgeons at Emory Hospital in Atlanta won’t perform the operation because Dickerson served time in prison for violating probation.

Little A.J. Burgess desperately needs a kidney transplant. But the potential donor, his father, is a convicted criminal in trouble with the law again, and Emory University Hospital has called off the operation to remove the father’s kidney.

Emory told the two-year-old’s parents, Carmellia Burgess and Anthony Dickerson, that it would not perform the surgery originally set for Oct. 3 unless it sees three months of good behavior after Dickerson’s Sept. 28 arrest for violation of probation.

“My son has a father who is ready and willing to give him a kidney so Baby A.J. doesn’t have to endure any deadly infections ,” Burgess wrote on a GoFundMe page, “but he’s being denied that because of a recent arrest.”

Essentially, Emory officials are not convinced Dickerson, who has a history of theft and forgery charges, is responsible enough to ensure his healthy recovery. The hospital says it’s simply following nationally accepted guidelines. Still, it’s come in for criticism.

“In the face of a good match and a desperate need, there should be no delay,” said Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University’s School of Medicine. “I see no reason why you would jeopardize a child’s life for some good behavior test.”

Emory spokeswoman Janet Christenbury said in a statement that the hospital is committed to the highest quality of care for its patients. “Guidelines for organ transplantation are designed to maximize the chance of success for organ recipients and minimize risk for living donors,” she said.

A.J., born without kidneys, endures five bladder treatments and 10 hours of dialysis a day. His family is seeking another medical center to do the father’s surgery.

Is Emory in the right? Tell us what you think. Send comments by email to: communitynews@ajc.com

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