Heart Transplant at 71 - Did Cheney Receive Special Treatment?

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Heart Transplant at 71 - Did Cheney Receive Special Treatment?

Ansley Ansley
Dick Cheney, a man who has questionable and at times downright damnable behavior, receives a donor heart at 71 years of age. This comes about after several massive heart attacks, surgeries and other interventions to keep this man alive.

The people leaving comments on these article pages for news sites are asking if this was "fair". Cracking jokes about who he paid to do it and did he bring the donor to the hospital with him...things of that nature.

My question to you is, "Is there anything fair about who receives what when it comes to medical care in the United States?", and really think on your answer. Is there an underlying bias in the way doctors treat one patient with insurance, versus the patient who doesn't have insurance, versus the former Vice President of the United States?
Answers (private voting - your screen name will NOT appear in the results):
There is definitely a bias when it comes to how doctors treat wealthy or insured patients than those without insurance
18  (72%)
Maybe in some situations, but probably not as much as you may think.
1  (4%)
Maybe in some situations, and probably more than we think.
1  (4%)
No, there is no bias in their treatment plans for wealthy or insured patients versus those who are uninsured.
1  (4%)
Other, I'll explain in the comments.
4  (16%)
Total votes: 25
Poll is closed
03/26/2012
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Positwist Positwist
Health care in the US privileges people who can afford care (at the risk of sounding snarky, duh). The system is engineered to favor--to provide better and more thorough care--to the affluent.

There's nothing "underlying" about this bias. It's very explicit, very pervasive, and our mortality rates are ridiculously high (compared to other wealthy nations) because of it.
03/26/2012
SilverIsis SilverIsis
As a transplant recipient myself, I can say with assurance that the rich and/or famous do not receive special treatment when it comes to receiving the gift of life. The lists that are maintained as to who is up next to receive only have information relating to how sick a person is, and does not have any identifying information that would allow such things to happen.

As for the medical field in general, I wouldn't say there is a bias so much as those that can afford it have more options in receiving the best care possible.
03/26/2012
Ansley Ansley
Quote:
Originally posted by SilverIsis
As a transplant recipient myself, I can say with assurance that the rich and/or famous do not receive special treatment when it comes to receiving the gift of life. The lists that are maintained as to who is up next to receive only have information ...
Maybe I'm just a huge skeptic/cynic when it comes to these things, but I think even in a perfect world, Cheney could pull several strings and make it happen. That's just me being extremely cynical in that regard.

But, I thought that there were age restrictions on these kinds of things, no?
03/26/2012
Kindred Kindred
Here's an article that addresses age of transplant recipients and the question of whether or not Cheney incurred any special treatment in receiving a transplant: link
03/26/2012
underHim underHim
They do not pick the person who will get it based on their financial or personal status. It is fully based on the health information of that individual. If Cheney wanted to get one using his resources, he could have gone to another country and bought one.
03/26/2012
Ansley Ansley
I just want to be clear---*I* do not believe he actually received special treatment. But, I do believe it is possible to make such things happen in certain cases, not necessarily his.

Being an American without health insurance has, in the past, made me feel like I was the lowest of the low on the totem pole when it came to treatment and types of treatment I received.
03/26/2012
P'Gell P'Gell
Cheney is above the age where most people would ever be placed on a transplant list (my mother is younger than him and was told, even though she has end stage renal disease, she was "too old" to even think about a transplant.)

At 71 most men Cheney's age would be told to make the best of the time they had left and the organ would be saved for a younger recipient.

The "rules" on who gets on transplant lists and who gets to the top quickly are very hazy to the public. Usually, the transplant committee will not even explain to people who gets where on the list, or even why some people can't get on the list.

"They" (meaning the transplant committees of hospitals and medical centers) certainly DO "pick" who gets on the list and who gets to leap frog. Usually, children are given preference, then, sadly, rich people and those will full insurance.

There is NO transparency with transplant committees. It's one of the (many) dark secrets of hospitals and medical care. For instance, people with chronic diseases (that the transplant won't cure) alcoholics, drug addicts and other people in these classes are often never put on lists or constantly place at the bottom. If an alcoholic DOES get a new liver and he burns that liver out, it is assumed that he continued drinking (because he probably did) and the chance of getting a second one is nil. In fact, most alcoholics won't get a chance to get a first liver transplant (unless you are David Crosby and have a lot of money and will donate bucks to the hospital.)

Yes, supposedly Cheney "had to wait almost two years" for his new heart. But, most men his age of normal means would never have been allowed on the transplant list at his age.

Of COURSE he got special treatment.
03/26/2012
P'Gell P'Gell
Quote:
Originally posted by underHim
They do not pick the person who will get it based on their financial or personal status. It is fully based on the health information of that individual. If Cheney wanted to get one using his resources, he could have gone to another country and bought ...
The United States' Political System is Cheney's "special resource."
03/26/2012
Silverdrop Silverdrop
Other - I don't know. I am fairly uninformed about how it works, other than it has to be a medical match before any special treatment could even factor in. How many potential Cheney hearts went to other people in the time he was on the list? We'll never know.

I don't think it's wrong to give a transplant to someone his age, however. I know transplant hearts are valuable, but I don't think the life of a 71 year old is worth less than the life of a 51 year old.
03/26/2012
Rossie Rossie
Quote:
Originally posted by P'Gell
Cheney is above the age where most people would ever be placed on a transplant list (my mother is younger than him and was told, even though she has end stage renal disease, she was "too old" to even think about a transplant.)

At 71 ...
That's what I thought when I heard that he received heart transplant, isn't it a waste to get one when he's already 71 years old, with so many younger patients out there on the waiting list?
03/26/2012
Kindred Kindred
Quote:
Originally posted by Rossie
That's what I thought when I heard that he received heart transplant, isn't it a waste to get one when he's already 71 years old, with so many younger patients out there on the waiting list?
Age is typically not a factor when assessing transplant recipients. As I was taught in school, age is not a disease. Assess a patient for their health.

Also to consider is how long a transplant will last. Here are some numbers I found:

About 81% of all people who receive heart transplants survive for at least 1 year.
About 75% survive 3 years, and 68% survive 5 years.
About 50% survive 10 years.
(Pham MX, et al. (2008). Surgical treatment of heart failure, cardiac transplantation, and mechanical ventricular support. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 12th ed., pp. 761-790. New York: McGraw-Hill.)

Based on those numbers and assuming Cheney was otherwise deemed healthy, his age shouldn't have been given much, if any, consideration. Its not unreasonable to expect a healthy male to live to be 81.
03/26/2012
underHim underHim
Quote:
Originally posted by Rossie
That's what I thought when I heard that he received heart transplant, isn't it a waste to get one when he's already 71 years old, with so many younger patients out there on the waiting list?
I think any life that can be saved should not be considered a waste. I do understand what you mean, but as long as he takes care of himself, he can still live a good life for many years.
03/26/2012
ellejay ellejay
Quote:
Originally posted by Kindred
Age is typically not a factor when assessing transplant recipients. As I was taught in school, age is not a disease. Assess a patient for their health.

Also to consider is how long a transplant will last. Here are some numbers I ...
This really swayed my thoughts on the topic.
03/26/2012
P'Gell P'Gell
Quote:
Originally posted by Silverdrop
Other - I don't know. I am fairly uninformed about how it works, other than it has to be a medical match before any special treatment could even factor in. How many potential Cheney hearts went to other people in the time he was on the list? ...
Although many hospitals may say "age isn't a disease" often the practice says differently. As in when doctors say, "Pregnancy isn't a disease." and yet treat it as one in practice. I don't have tons of experience with transplants (that isn't my specialty) I have certainly heard doctors, other nurses and patients alike complaining about the opaque way transplant committees behave and make decisions. But, I do have a LOT of experience with doctors who say pregnancy isn't a disease and then go ahead and treat is as if it were one.

As with many things, what hospitals say and what they practice are not always the same.
03/26/2012
P'Gell P'Gell
As for Cheney, we have no way of knowing if he has other health issues. People with heart disease almost always do. I doubt he's an otherwise completely healthy man. (Just based on the fact that he did have heart disease for many years, lived a high stress lifestyle and probably didn't have the healthiest lifestyle even after he was diagnosed. Is he going to go Vegan like Clinton to help his own health? My guess is no. He'll probably continue eating and living the way he did before the transplant.)

The thing is we'll never find out. I think he got a heart that would have lasted longer in a younger person, but what can we do about it?
03/26/2012
Hallmar82 Hallmar82
Doctors are probably more concerned about getting sued than whether or not you have insurance. They avoid getting peoples hopes up for fear of being sued or allow someone too old/weak/sick to go through a surgery and possibly die - and then get sued by the family.

Plus, VP Cheney was on the waiting list for 2 years, I don't think that's out of the ordinary for a wait-time.
03/26/2012
Rossie Rossie
Quote:
Originally posted by Kindred
Age is typically not a factor when assessing transplant recipients. As I was taught in school, age is not a disease. Assess a patient for their health.

Also to consider is how long a transplant will last. Here are some numbers I ...
Well, I hope he'll live for another healthy ten years then!
03/26/2012
ECU Pirate ECU Pirate
prolly a bit bias.
03/26/2012
vanilla&chocolate vanilla&chocolate
I think if a 71 year-old walked in off the street in need of a transplant that didn't have the wealth or status of Cheney, it wouldn't have happened as fast...just sayin'.
04/26/2012
Kindred Kindred
I know this thread is a month old, but here's a recent article discussing this very issue: Heart Transplants for Older Patients
04/29/2012
RonLee RonLee
ALL of those big shots get special treatment, no matter what their party affiliation is.
04/29/2012
Ansley Ansley
Quote:
Originally posted by Kindred
I know this thread is a month old, but here's a recent article discussing this very issue: Heart Transplants for Older Patients
That's a great read! Thank you Kindred!
04/29/2012
Total posts: 23
Unique posters: 13