Doctors say Anthony Stokes will not receive heart transplant

A Georgia teen is in the fight of his life. After being told he has six months to live because of an enlarged heart, 15-year-old Anthony Stokes was recently informed he would not be placed on the list to receive a life-saving heart transplant because of his history of “non-compliance.”

Stokes has been receiving treatment at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston for the last month, but doctors say the teen is not eligible for a heart transplant because they do not believe he will comply with post-operation procedures.

The hospital sent Stokes’ family a letter explaining why the teen is not eligible for the list:

“The decision was made that Anthony is currently not a transplant candidate due to having a history of non-compliance, which is one of our center’s contraindications to listing for heart transplant.”

The letter continues: “As we discussed today with Anthony’s mother, we will not place Anthony on the heart transplant waiting list at this time due to this decision.”

While doctors say Stokes will not be placed on the list because they do not believe he will take the necessary medication and attend follow-up appointments after the operation, his mother feels her son was denied for another reason: his troubled past.

Anthony’s mother, Melencia Hamilton, says officials are refusing to put her son on the transplant list because of his low grades and trouble with the law.

Mack Major, a family friend, called the hospital’s reasoning a “fabrication.” He told WTEV, “The non-compliance is a fabrication, because they don’t want to give him a heart. This is unacceptable because he must lose his life because of a non-compliance.”

Stokes’ family has called in civil rights leaders to help pressure the hospital to put Anthony on the transplant list because it is his only hope for survival.

“They’ve given him a death sentence,” Christine Young Brown, president of the Newton Rockdale County SCLC, said.

The hospital released a statement saying they are working with the family to explore all options.

“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. We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind.”

Ms. Hamilton she hopes hospital administrators will change their mind about her son.

“I know it’s wrong, because if they get to know him, they would love him,” she said.

  • Mo

    I am inclinced to think the decision is based on exactly what the hospital says – a history of non-compliance. Currently incarcerated people are still eligible to be on the transplant list, so I don’t know why they would exclude a child who has had “some trouble” with the law and bad grades. I am thinking that he has a history of not taking appropriate care of himself and the family has a history of not making sure that he does. That will knock you off of the transplant list.

    I think the parents understandably want their child to be on the list so they have spun the story in such a way so as to induce public anger and, I assume, they hope the hospital will cave to pressure. I do not know that they will.

  • MimiLuvs

    I don’t know the whole story, but my opinion is a non-popular opinion.
    The only thing that I am going to write about is the fact that I didn’t know that the organ donating list can disqualify a person off of their lists. I know that there are ‘priority status’ for people waiting for an organ donation, but I didn’t know that there is a ban.
    But, I do understand why they can take people off of the lists. A person receives a heart and a few months later they are doing activities that are detrimental to their health (and donated organ). It’s kind of like a slap in the face almost.

  • Starla

    Interesting. Do hospitals ask about grades and issues with the law when a teenager is admitted for a health issue? How would the hospital administrators and doctors even know this about a patient? Quite bizarre if the family is telling the truth.

    I didn’t even know doctors could refuse lifesaving options to a patient because of past behaviour. Let who have eyes see, and who have ears hear.

  • MimiLuvs


    I share the same point of view.
    I think he hasn’t been following the regimen that has been giving to him and this is a consequence of his actions.
    You’re right about incarcerated individuals and medical treatment. I work in a public hospital where I send out bills to insurance companies/patients. I’ve handled several inmates’ hospital bills and they have been treated for anything and everything, ranging from heart surgery to dermatology appointments to methadone treatments, so I don’t his brushes with the law would cause for him to be bumped off of the list.

  • zanzabari

    Im not a transplant surgeon but I am a doctor. Noncompliance ( meaning not coming to appointments, not taking your medication, not following directions or heeding to directions/restrictions, not abstaining from alcohol or drugs) is the quickest way to get yourself booted off a transplant list. A transplanted organ is a gift that mant many people dont get. It is taken very seriously if you show signs of beig unwilling to take care of yourself and comply woth the prescribed care. Never have I or anyone iknow asked about grades and trouble with the law. At no point does that come up . Ive seen former criminals get lifesaving treatments (LVADs which are bridges to heart transplant). My feeling is the family is spinning this. Of course anything can happen and discrimination is not an impossibility. Howver id bet money the hospital has boat load of documentation stating failure to show up, not taking meds, refusing to cooperate. A transplant of any kind requires life long cooperation with your medical team.

  • Yes, Im That Leah

    Bad grades….? I’m sorry. I don’t believe they kick people off the donor list for not being smart as whip. I just don’t. I hope it works out for this family. This is truly heartbreaking.

  • Daphne

    I’m pretty sure the doctors aren’t allowed to disclose that kind of information, so I’m not sure why his parents assume it’s because of his bad grades or criminal record.

  • geenababe

    I believe the reason the hospital gave.

  • Yes, Im That Leah

    I believe you. Those reasons can’t be real. The truth is that, some people simply can’t manage themselves. They have to have someone holding their hand and being told what to do. Maybe the doctor sees it as a sign of weakness and is not willing to take a chance on something so important. Honestly, maybe the young man can talk to a counselor and work his issues out. He might just be overwhelmed and afraid. People run sometimes when they’re afraid…..he’s only 15.

  • squish08

    I completely agree with transplants being a gift and believe strict criteria should be met, but I am uncomfortable holding a child accountable for past behaviors that may or may have not been within his control, especially when the consequence is premature death. Part of growing up is learning from past mistakes; I hope this young man has the opportunity to learn and live a happy and healthy life.

  • MommieDearest

    This is sad all the way around. I know first hand about “non compliance.” My father had a slew of medical issues and would NOT take his medication like he was supposed to. He would take them for a little while, then stop when he started “feeling better.” Then, like clock work, he would have a crisis and have to be hospitalized until he recovered. This went on for years. Finally, last year, he had one crisis too many and he couldn’t recover. His body was too worn out.

    I think the family is in denial. If the young man is not keeping up with his medication and appointments surely they know about it. Right now it looks as if they are enabling his irresponsible behavior. Or maybe they are the cause of it. He’s 15 and can’t drive himself to the doctor. I don’t know *shrugs*

    I really hope that they and the hospital can reach a compromise, where the patient will be given an opportunity to show compliance for a specified time period and be up for reconsideration.

    This is just sad…

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    I have never heard anything so ridiculous. He won’t comply with our rules after surgery (we just know that because we do) so he is going to have to die? What kind of Hippocratic Oath did these doctors take? I mean, geesh.

  • MimiLuvs

    @Jenn M. Jackson

    I think the ‘no-compliance’ ruling stems from incidents that occurred before surgery (missing appointments, etc.)

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    I get that but he is a kid. The hospital should be dealing directly with his parents and caretakers. As someone who has had major heart surgery, you don’t really have control of your own faculties after surgery. They should know that and should do everything in their power to ensure that he gets a chance at a full life. That’s why they take an Oath.

  • Yes, Im That Leah

    Hi Jenn. It’s 1:01 pm 8/13 and CNN is doing a story. They say that he was not following doctors orders, keeping appointments or taking meds. Doctors are looking at this as being a life long battle, and hearts are hard to come by! They will do an update at 4:00. I really think he’ll be alright if he gets counseling, and the media pressure helps SO much. His mama was crying through. It’s up to her to get him to the doctors and I hope she steps it up this time. PRAY!

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    That’s great news. Many people don’t realize how something as serious as heart surgery will change people. I think everyone should have a chance to rehabilitate past troubles. Looking forward to hearing the outcome.

  • Karyn

    I’m conflicted. I mean it’s sad and wrong, but at the same time if you’re not going to follow the regimen then why bother?

  • Hope

    You have to understand that the transplant board had to make that decision not just one doctor. I know and understand the rules of the board at CHOA. I am a heart patient there. You must take medicine in order to survive. If not and not willing to you will not receive an organ. It isn’t just one doctors decision. And at age 15, at CHOA, you are being transitioned into the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic. So it is not just the parents responsibility it is the patients. I hope this child does get a transplant but if he doesn’t do whatever the doctors say it won’t happen.

  • Hope

    No non-compliance ultimately means he and family is disregarding doctors order and medicine protocol. I know because at first I wanted to refuse medicaitions but I changed my mind. Same doctors as this child was my surgeons.

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    @Hope Many of those boards (at least those in CA) are comprised of doctors and other medical professionals. They too take the Oath. And, it is likely he had a specific board of individuals review his case since he was denied. The hospital would not make that kind of decision rashly.

    I understand the gravity of this type of surgery and the imperative nature of the follow-up procedures.

    My point is just that he is a child. To hold him responsible for past behavior, to me, is irresponsible. Especially given the fact that he only has 6 months to live. There is a certain amount of despair that sets in when this type of outcome is discovered. It isn’t really that easy to wake up every morning and do the right thing. I am not condoning dangerous behavior but I do think that counselling, outreach, and other services are likely needed in his particular case.

    This isn’t as cut and dry as it looks. So, he should just be given as many options as possible.

  • Blue

    Life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness…somebody lied

  • Cocoel

    Don’t agree. As a Social Worker, I can tell you they probably have always had these options. I have had people not open the door and skip appointments when services were provided. That is the first thing they offer when they see a problem. Regardless of his age, his parents couldn’t control his noncompliance, which is a problem. If they can’t do it now, how will they keep these life saving appointments later? Let’s be real here, there are thousands of people his age and younger on the these list that WILL comply. His parents refuse to take responsibility for what he hasn’t done and THEY couldn’t make him do it. You notice it’s not a court situation. You know why? The hospital has DATA about his noncompliance for days and that is why.

  • Yvette (@smallyew)

    Assuming noncompliance, this 15-year-old boy should die because he doesn’t take his medicine or get to his appointments? Modern journalism disappoints me with its complete inability to read between the lines.

    Whose responsibility is he? When I was 15, I was still my parents’ responsibility. I didn’t have a license, so I relied on them to take me to my doctors’ appointments. They made my medical decisions for me, not including those pertaining to my sexual health.

    Medically, he is still a child. So I ask, do his parent have the means and the opportunity to get him to his appointments? Can they afford his medications? Is this family insured? Medicaid? Other insurance? Does this hospital have charity care? If yes, is their charity care budget stressed lately?

    I’ll tell you this, a lot of transplants end up going to white males between the ages of 18-44.. Men are privileged above women. The insured above the uninsured. Adults above children.

    And, mysteriously, a lot of “noncompliant” people are Black.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    Most teens don’t comply with anything; that’s a given. However, it’s the mother’s responsibility to make sure he was complying with the treatment protocol. She was neglectful and wants to blame someone else for her irresponsible behavior.

  • Magnolia

    I work in Transplant and in my family, my cousin was a 2x kidney recipient. It all started when she was about 14 and went until she passed at 30. Transplant is a team sport. This team didn’t make this decision lightly. You can’t expect the medical team to treat your problem effectively if you aren’t in compliance. That goes for anything – diabetes treatment to just taking antibiotics if you have a cold. I don’t know his family insurance situation but I hope people aren’t blaming it on (maybe) them being on Medicaid/poor. There are people with jobs and Grade A insurance who won’t take their meds and come to appointments so they aren’t listed either. It’s all about that family support system and structure and the willingness of the patient to be a team player in thier care. Organs are scarce gifts.

  • Calidee

    I believe the hospital. He probably doesn’t have the support that he needs. Fifteen year olds can be very difficult so maybe the family is doing the best that they can. However, I am not totally comfortable with the hospital’s decision. This kid needs a 3rd party guardian to look out for his best interest. The hospital can not tell their side of the story, but I hope that this was one of the options made available for this family.

  • Jenn M. Jackson


  • Yes, I’m That Leah

    Hey Jenn. They reversed their decision! Anthony is on the transplant list!!! :)

  • Yes, I’m That Leah

    My last comment got stuck I think, If you don’t know. Anthony is on the transplant list now. :)

  • Misha

    They recently released an update saying that he’s now been moved to the top of the transplant list.

  • Marcus

    All black people believe that a decision made differently than they want is taken from racism, you should start thinking before accuse the rest of the world

  • MimiLuvs

    Which also means that the person who was of of the list prior down.

  • geenababe

    You see what backlash and the media spotlight can do, he is not only back on the list put at the top of the list. I hope he follows procedure after he gets his new heart.

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    It doesn’t have to be out and out racism to classify as structural or institutional bias. I think Yvette’s point is valid.

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    @Yes, Im that Leah

    That’s great news! Good for this child and his family.

  • Jenn M. Jackson

    That’s fine but I think there may be structural factors at play as well. My mother is a social worker and has been one since before I was born. I don’t think she’d ever recommend on giving someone an opportunity to live a full and fruitful life.

    There is a lot of conjecture around why he may have been denied. But, none of it matters now that the hospital made the right decision to let this child have a chance at a life.

  • Apple Pie


  • Hugs

    I’m disappointed at all this. I agree with others, he was likely disqualified for not making appointments and taking medicine as directed. Most parents would make sure every instruction from the doctor was followed exactly as the doctor says if their child was in danger of death. These parents didn’t and used race and other issues to bait a public outcry. It takes away from people who are really being discriminated against and gives more reason for people to thinks blacks are always trying to play a “race card.” I feel bad for this kid

  • Shevy BOOM (@helloatl)

    Someone called into the radio this morning that works at the hospital and said that the reason because he wasn’t taking all of the meds he was supposed to. Let medical professionals do what they need to do. Sometimes, media steps in and really just doesn’t have any clue.

  • MimiLuvs

    Dang on faulty computer!
    What I meant to say was, (from my understanding) more than likely, the person who was at the top spot (waiting for a specific heart donation) will be bumped down because they have made Anthony the top priority.

  • MimiLuvs

    Okay, I’ve read a report that states that Anthony is back on the list, but he is not at the top of the list.

  • QueenZamundaMD

    The kids situation is sad…no doubt about it children with chronic medical illness struggle with compliance and that’s where the family and a good support system has to step up. But the reality is, and this is speaking as a physician who has seen this all too often…when a patient is blessed to receive such a life saving procedure and they return to the hospital with organ rejection for no other reason but noncompliance makes you think about the last patient you treated that was not lucky enough to receive an organ. People need to stop making excuses, stop throwing the race card, the gender card, the age card and just be responsible for their behavior…he didn’t choose to have a cardiomyopathy but he and his family have a choice in how he is medically managed.

  • binks

    As others mention, we are forgetting that he is 15 and probably when he was diagnosed with this condition he was probably younger than that so I can’t squarely put the fault on him because he is not an adult and can’t decide his medical issues himself. So with the history of “non-compliance” the hospital should be looking at the parents because if it was my kid you damn well know that he will be at every appointment and taking his medication. So I think there are two mishaps of A) the parents not being honest with themselves on whether they are doing everything they can and B) the hospital for not reviewing if the parents are capable (both money, support, transportation and time wise) of providing the kid what he needs for his condition. Is there a reason for him being noncompliant? Or is he and his family being noncompliant just to be noncompliant? Personally, I don’t know too many young people who willingly want to die if they can help it.

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