Death By Budget Cut: Poor People Denied Organ Transplants in Arizona

I know states have to make difficult spending decisions, especially when tax increases are deemed worse than death, but Arizona's cuts affecting transplant patients are just heartbreaking.

Even physicians with decades of experience telling patients that their lives are nearing an end are having difficulty discussing a potentially fatal condition that has arisen in Arizona: Death by budget cut.

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state's version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.

"The most difficult discussions are those that involve patients who had been on the donor list for a year or more and now we have to tell them they're not on the list anymore," said Dr. Rainer Gruessner, a transplant specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "The frustration is tremendous. It's more than frustration."

Patients who were in line for transplants have been ruled ineligible -- because they don't have enough money. Arizona's Medicaid program was helping, and now it's not, leaving those facing death to scramble to try to somehow raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As for the politics of this, Arizona's right-wing governor, Jan Brewer (R), said the transplant cuts are necessary because of "Obamacare," the conservative description of the Affordable Care Act.

But this literally adds insult to injury. Brewer signed these health care cuts into law on March 18. President Obama signed health care reform into law on March 23.

If Brewer wants to support a policy that leaves sick, innocent Arizonans facing impossible, life-threatening choices, she can try to defend it. But lying about her own misdeeds, hoping the public is so easily fooled that she can blame the White House for a policy that came after her own, is pretty disgusting.

"We made it very clear at the time of the vote that this was a death sentence," said state Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor (D). Republicans didn't listen, and now they're blaming Obama. It's pathetic.

Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen | Sourced from

Posted at December 3, 2010, 8:22am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Environment
Food
Media
World
Today's Top Stories