by Sara Reardon/KHN
Griffin Dalrymple is an energetic 7-year-old who loves going to school in Eureka, Montana. But two years ago, the boy described by his mother, Jayci, as a “ball of fire” was suddenly knocked back by severe bacterial pneumonia that hospitalized him for two weeks.
As her son lay in the intensive care unit with a tube in his tiny lungs, Jayci began imagining worst-case scenarios. She worried that if Griffin ended up needing a lung transplant, he might be refused because he has Down syndrome.
“It was terrifying knowing that they could deny him certain lifesaving services,” she said.
Denying organ transplants to people with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities like Down syndrome or autism is common in the United States, even though it is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to one widely cited 2008 study, 44% of organ transplant centers said they would not add a child with some level of neurodevelopmental disability to the organ transplant list. Eighty-five percent might consider the disability as a factor in deciding whether to list the person.