Two years ago, heart patient Anthony Stokes was kept off a heart transplant list because of his police record. At 15, when admitted to an Atlanta hospital with shortness of breath and chest pains, Stokes was wearing an ankle monitor as he was under house arrest for a fight.
He was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and told he needed a transplant but Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta refused to put him on a transplant list because of a history of “noncompliance.” Without a new heart, doctors told Stokes he had 6-9 months to live.
His mother, Melencia Hamilton, protested the decision, because her son had no medical history and had never been ill before and therefore could not be considered “noncompliant.” After a firestorm of protest, the hospital reversed its decision and Stokes successfully received a heart transplant.
Unfortunately, Stokes’ story does not have a happy ending. He was killed in a police chase after being suspected in a failed home invasion robbery in Roswell, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb.
A troubled teenager who received a controversial heart transplant less than two years ago died Tuesday after he lost control of his car during a high-speed chase with Roswell police.
Anthony Stokes, 17, of Decatur, was also a suspect in a failed burglary and a carjacking, which police believe were linked to the fatal crash of the black Honda Accord on Ga 9, Officer Lisa Holland said.
Stokes made international news in August 2013 after the media reported that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston had not put him on a transplant list. The hospital ruled he was a bad candidate for the organ because of his background that suggested he would be “uncompliant” in treatment and had brushes with the law.
His mother, Melencia Hamilton, then told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that hospital officials stereotyped her son, who wore a court-ordered monitoring device, as a troubled teen.
“It just seemed they decided he’s a troublemaker, and that’s not true,” she said in August 2013.
Attempts to reach Hamilton for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
People who receive transplants must adhere to strict medication regimens to keep their bodies from rejecting the organs. A person can be disqualified if hospital officials think the patient won’t stick to that regimen, has no support system or an inability to pay for expensive anti-rejection medicines.
At the time Stokes was diagnosed, doctors said he would die within six to nine months without a transplant, Hamilton said. The hospital reversed course and Stokes received a heart after his mother and critics from civil rights organizations contended he was denied the heart because he was poor, black and had trouble with the law, which his mother said was for fighting.
After a failed burglary attempt of a Roswell apartment, Stokes apparently escaped in a stolen Honda Accord and lost control of the car, hitting a pedestrian after being chased by police. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The pedestrian is in stable condition at an Atlanta hospital.
Police reports say Stokes was arrested 11 times between 2010 and 2015 on a variety of weapons, burglary, truancy, auto theft, weapons, arson and terrorist threat charges.
After the transplant, Stokes was arrested twice more for shoplifting and weapons charges.
(Photo: Channel 2 News)
With his history, did Stokes deserve a second chance? Will this impact future transplant decisions? Let us know what you think.