UPDATE: After initially being denied a spot on the heart transplant list for reasons that his family say were tied to performance in school and run-ins with the law, 15-year-old Anthony Stokes is now a candidate for a donor heart, NBC-affiliate 11 Alive reported Tuesday afternoon.
“While there has been misinformation circulating, Children's cannot discuss the specifics of this case or any other case due to privacy rules," Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta reportedly said, referencing an earlier statement and allegations that Stokes was rejected from the list due to "non-compliance." "Our physician experts are continuing to work with this family to establish a care plan and determine the best next steps for the patient.”
According to family spokesperson, Mark Bell, the family had been receiving calls from as far away as Panama asking if there was any way they could help.
PREVIOUSLY: 15-year-old Anthony Stokes has less than 6 months to live according to doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where the teenager has been hospitalized since July 14. But despite the severity of this enlarged heart, which doctors say can only be treated by way of a transplant, he's been denied the chance to get one.
“They've given him a death sentence,” Christine Young Brown, president of the Newton Rockdale County Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), told local news station WSBTV.
Brown, along with other civil rights activists are beginning to take up Anthony’s cause because of the reason Stokes' family says the teenager is being denied access to the transplant list -- his performance in school and previous run-ins with the law.
“They said they don’t have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups,” Melencia Hamilton, Anthony’s mother, told WSBTV News. In their words, Anthony has been labeled as "non-compliant."
Keepers of the nation’s transplant list have strict guidelines about who qualifies, WSBTV notes. "We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind," a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta representative said in a statement, adding that the hospital is working with the family and looking into all options regarding Anthony's healthcare.
African Americans make up the largest group of minorities in need of an organ transplant, the Office of Minority Health reports. The number of organ transplants performed on Black Americans in 2012 was only 14 percent of the number of Black Americans currently waiting for a transplant compared to 27 percent of the White Americans currently waiting.
According to Georgia law, residents are allowed to seal or expunge their juvenile records, enshrining into law the principle that underage "trouble with the law" is not a past indicator of future behavior, as Gawker notes. But other's point to a larger pattern of racially-motivated skepticism about young black men as the reason Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta may be unwilling to budge.
"The routine criminalization of black youth — thanks in large part to the so-called 'school-to-prison pipeline,' which funnels a disproportionate number of black teens into the justice system for minor infractions — ensures that teens like Anthony are often seen as threats," Think Progress' Tara Culp-Ressler writes. "Once society labels those kids as criminal, suspect, or 'non-compliant,' their lives are typically considered to have less value."