PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania woman whose autistic adult son was not recommended for a heart transplant said she wants to bring more attention to the decision-making process so that those with ailments or disabilities are not passed over without careful consideration.
Karen Corby said Thursday that her son, Paul, now 23, was denied a heart transplant from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania last summer over what it said were concerns about his "psychiatric issues" and "autism," among other factors.
One expert on medical ethics said it's legitimate for the mother to raise the point, but there's an even bigger one, too.
"The thing to keep in mind is if more of us would sign donor cards, there would be less pressure to reject anybody. It's the huge shortage of hearts that really drives this problem," said Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.
Paul Corby was recommended for the procedure because he was born with left ventricular noncompaction, a congenital disorder that left part of his heart less able to pump blood through his body. He was diagnosed with the ailment in 2008. He was referred to Penn Medicine in 2011 to discuss a transplant.
In a letter, dated June 13, 2011, Dr. Susan Brozena wrote: "I have recommended against transplant given his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior."
His mother said she was taken aback by the decision and noted that her son, who is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, was upset by the decision, but optimistic that a transplant could come.