It’s no surprise that Dick Cheney isn’t the most popular guy on the planet. But when news broke that the 71-year-old former vice president and five-time heart attack survivor was recovering following heart transplant surgery, Twitter exploded with ill-wishes for him.
The first few examples of responses appearing in this article use language this blog does not; you’ll have to see them for yourself. But here are some other highlights:
And then there was this one, which took a jab at presidential hopeful Rick Santorum:
Of course, there were tweets offering support for Cheney and his family, but the complaints were definitely loudest.
Many demanded to know why Cheney should even deserve a heart, considering his advanced age. “Why didn’t they give that heart to a younger person?” some asked. If it were their grandfather waiting for a heart, I suspect they’d have kept their mouths shut about how fair or unfair transplant waiting lists are.
The fact is that Cheney waited 20 months with an artificial heart pump before an organ became available. That’s almost two years. How long should anyone have to wait?
But if we’re going to place an age limit on a heart transplant — or any other kind of organ transplant, for that matter — aren’t we really coming right out and saying that once you reach a certain age, you’re no longer valuable?
I can’t find any age limit connected to one’s right to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
If everyone who could safely donate organs upon their death would actually sign up for organ donation, the debate over one’s value connected to his age would be moot; there almost certainly wouldn’t be anyone waiting for 20 months for an organ. There are 3,100 Americans waiting for a heart right now. On average, 43,000 Americans die in traffic accidents each year, and another 17,000 die in falls. That’s 60,000 people. I’m no doctor, but let’s say that only 10% of them are eligible for organ donation: that’s 6,000 hearts that could go into the system. If only half of that 10% actually is able to be transplanted in time — for whatever reason — that would still almost wipe out the entire list of people waiting for a transplant.
Why isn’t the debate focused on that?