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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No Celebrating Here

On January 13 a post entitled Brick Walls at Wolfhirschhorn.org caused a media frenzy. I wrote about this as did many others devoted to disability rights. The story puzzled me from its inception. Organ transplants are rationed and people die waiting for organs. I knew that disability bias exists when deciding who does and does not get a transplant. I accept this as a given. I assume if I ever needed a transplant I would be denied based on the mere fact I am paralyzed. Yet people seemed shocked when a CHOP denied a cognitively disabled child an kidney. The denial was based on her quality of life and cognitive ability. In my estimation, the only thing that was different about the Rivera case was how blunt the doctors were with the parents. The subsequent uproar and firestorm across disability related blogs is a sign of just how fast news can travel. Thus the Rivera case differs in one key way from Sandra Jensen circa 1995. A supposed resolution with the hospital has quickly been reached.

My depressing take on the Rivera case is that one child will benefit. Once the media attention wanes, and it has already waned, hospitals and transplant teams will quietly go back to business as usual. Nothing has changed--disability bias does not go away overnight. It is alive and well in hospitals across this country. I have no doubt CHOP will institute new policies--those policies will not change the decision making process but rather make the language it uses more palatable. Much lip service will be given to disability rights. My gloomy assessment diverges from the latest post at wolfhirschorn.org entitled "A Life Changing Event..for the Greater Population". I quote:

"The power of social media continues to thrive. The experience of this story going viral is a unique event that we are likely to be a part of only once in a lifetime. As the story continues to buzz, it is quickly moving into a political and public forum. Senator Sweeney from New Jersey has already pushed forward action on transplant rights for the disabled, and CHOP has made contact with the state to address this matter. The wheels are in motion for change at a larger scale.
The outcome of Chrissy posting her article will likely end up with the best possible solution for Mia. Mia will get the best treatment available, whether it is at CHOP or another hospital. In addition to Mia receiving the best of care, rights for the disabled will continue to gain steam and recognition. Discrimination against our kids needs to be addressed and maybe this is just what we needed to see happen.
The success of this event can’t go forward without recognizing our community as a whole. Because of all the contributors, parents, wolfhirschhorn.org followers and advocates of our kids, this wave would never have happened. Thanks to all of you for being a part of a building trend to give our kids the stage they deserve.
And finally, check out some of the vitals of the story…they are quite amazing:
Average site traffic per day, 3 weeks before the article went viral: 165 visits/day
Total site traffic since the article was posted 2 weeks ago: 387,000 visits
Largest source of referrals on the day the story went viral: 91% from Facebook, 2% from Change.org".

No doubt social media played a key role in the Rivera case. And there is no doubt the outcome for the child in question is far more positive than it would have been without the national attention. But I do not share the belief that larger scale changes will take place any time soon. The decision and process involved in who receives an organ is inherently flawed and biased. We can only do our best to minimize the bias. This decision making process is complex, nationwide in scope; political, social and economic variables all come into play. To suggest otherwise is simply naive. Organs are rationed--this is a fact. When it comes to rationing I have no doubt people with a disability will be at the bottom of the priority list. This is a social reality that has not changed measurably in my life time. Perhaps I am just cranky. This winter has been a disaster. Warm temperatures and no snow have left me frustrated in the extreme. Then again, I am a realist. I have experienced the brunt of prejudice for 34 years. I do not think disability bias will disappear because people flocked to Facebook and signed an on line petition.