By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The family of a 15-year-old Atlanta boy who could have less than six months to live said Monday he is being unfairly denied a heart transplant because of past failure to take medicine and appear for doctor's appointments.
Melencia Hamilton, mother of Anthony Stokes, said her son, who has an enlarged heart, was told by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospital he would not be placed on the transplant list because of fear he would not comply with medical requirements.
"They said they don't have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups," Hamilton told the Atlanta television station WSB.
The hospital did not give details but said in a statement, "We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind."
"The well-being of our patients is always our first priority. We are continuing to work with this family and looking at all options regarding this patient's health care," the statement added.
A hospital spokesperson declined to discuss the case.
Family members did not respond to phone calls seeking comment about Stokes' record of following medical prescriptions.
Heart transplant patients can become seriously ill, and even die, if they miss even one day of medication, Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association, said.
"It is something transplant centers take very seriously," she said. "You have to follow a very strict regimen. Hearts are very scarce resources."
Hospitals consider a variety of factors, besides medical necessity, in deciding whether to put a patient on a transplant waiting list, said Joel Newman, a spokesman for the non-profit group, United Network For Organ Sharing.
"There are psycho-social considerations: Does the patient understand the risk, are they likely to follow medication schedules, can they keep up with appointments, can they come to the clinic for regular follow ups?," he said.
"It's a very individual process," he said, adding that a patient might be placed on the waiting list by one transplant center but denied at another with different criteria.
(Editing by David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)