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  1. #1
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    Default Dick Cheney's heart transplant at 71 spurs age debate

    Read this article below and let me know what you think. Is having an age limit on heart transplant recipients a good idea or not? If so, what should that age limit be?

    On one hand, I look at age limits as a form of discrimination. Is an older person's life less worthy than a younger persons? On the other hand, if you're really old and and already on the verge of death, the transplant may only add a short time to your life whereas that heart could have been given to a much younger recipient who otherwise would have died well before his or her time. With younger recipients, the transplant is more likely to be successful long term. It sounds to me like an issue for which there are no easy answers and I'm interested in what you think.




    Dick Cheney's heart transplant at 71 spurs age debate

    (CBS/AP) Did former Vice President Dick Cheney get special treatment when the 71-year-old got a heart transplant on Saturday? Doctors are saying it's unlikely the Republican septuagenarian was bumped ahead of thousands of younger people who were also in line to get a new heart.

    "You can't leapfrog the system," said Dr. Allen Taylor, cardiology chief at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. "It's a very regimented and fair process and heavily policed."

    More than 3,100 Americans are waiting now for a new heart, and about 330 die each year before one becomes available. When one does, doctors check to see who is a good match and in highest medical need. The heart is offered locally, then regionally and finally nationally until a match is made.

    Cheney's case reopens debate about whether rules should be changed to favor youth over age in giving out scarce organs. As it stands now, time on the waiting list, medical need and where you live determine the odds of scoring a new heart - not how many years you'll live to make use of it.

    "The ethical issues are not that he had a transplant, but who didn't?" Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif., wrote on Twitter.

    Cheney received the new heart Saturday at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., the same place where he received an implanted heart pump that has kept him alive since July 2010. It appears he went on the transplant wait list around that time, 20 months ago.

    Cheney had severe congestive heart failure and had suffered five heart attacks over the past 25 years. He's had countless procedures to keep him going - bypasses, artery-opening angioplasty, pacemakers and surgery on his legs. Yet he must have had a healthy liver and kidneys to qualify for a new heart, doctors said.

    "We have done several patients hovering around age 70" although that's about "the upper limit" for a transplant, said Dr. Mariell Jessup, a University of Pennsylvania heart failure specialist and American Heart Association spokeswoman. "The fact he waited such a long time shows he didn't get any favors."

    Jessup and Taylor spoke Sunday from the American College of Cardiology's annual conference in Chicago, where Cheney's treatment was a hot topic.

    Patients can get on more than one transplant list if they can afford the medical tests that each center requires to ensure eligibility, and can afford to fly there on short notice if an organ becomes available. For example, the late Apple chief Steve Jobs was on a transplant list in Tennessee and received a new liver at a hospital there in 2009 even though he lived in California.

    That's not done nearly as often with hearts as it is for livers or kidneys, said Dr. Samer Najjar, heart transplant chief at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Each transplant center decides for itself how old a patient it will accept, he said.

    "Most centers wouldn't put somebody on" at Cheney's age, said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan, who has testified before many panels on organ sharing issues.

    "I've been arguing for a long time that the system should pay more attention to age because you'll get a better return on the gift" because younger people are more likely to live longer with a donor organ, Caplan said.

    There have been other recent reports of successful heart transplants in septuagenarians.

    In Canada, a man described as a home builder and philanthropist received a heart transplant when he was 79 at the University Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He lived for more than a decade with the organ, dying in 2010 at age 90.

    In Texas, a 75-year-old retired veterinarian received a heart last year from a 61-year-old donor, but he had been a marathon runner and was presumably healthier than many of his peers.

    Cheney will have to take daily medicines to prevent rejection of his new heart and go through rehabilitation to walk and return to normal living. He was former President George W. Bush's vice president for eight years, from 2001 until 2009.

    About 5.8 million Americans suffer from heart failure and other 57,000 will die of it this year.
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  2. #2
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    I see your point and it's worthy of debate.

    I think 71 isn't an unreasonable age. You can be relatively fit and healthy at that age, and a transplant heart only lasts 10-15 years (doesn't' it?) and living into one's 80s is a regular occurance now. I mean think of celebrities that are aged over 70: Dustin Hoffman, Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Joan Collins, Jane Fonda - they're all quite spritely and full of life, which makes you rethink the way you see the 'elderly'. I can't imagine a big uproar if one of them had a transplant - people would be too sad to lose them and would think it worth it. Dick Cheney on the other hand isn't all that popular and frankly seems older than he is, so it makes people think differently of him.

    On the other hand, if people in their 20s are dying while the elderly receive transplants, this is of concern. I don't think you can ban it outright for the elderly but perhaps it could be limited. Don't they have some sort of system of points where various things about the patient are assessed and they are pushed up or down the list depending on the results? Maybe those over a certain age should be disadvantaged a little in terms of points.
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  3. #3
    violaine
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    I don't like the idea of an arbitrary age limit for potential recipients of a donor heart. I can't say a younger person's life is more valid than an older person's life at all.

  4. #4
    Senior Member swordpath's Avatar
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    If you have heart issues and apply for a transplant you should receive you heart transplants at the appropriate time correspondent to the time you placed your need on a list. End of debate. It is not in the right of any person to determine who is eligible and when regarding age.

    Good thread and a legitimate debate though.

  5. #5
    Whisky Old & Women Young Speed Gavroche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    Read this article below and let me know what you think. Is having an age limit on heart transplant recipients a good idea or not?
    No. There's no reason for this.
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    Whisky Old & Women Young Speed Gavroche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Kross View Post
    I see your point and it's worthy of debate.

    I think 71 isn't an unreasonable age.
    I don't see why. But so what? If someone want to make an unreasonable choice, that's his right.
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    "Stereotypes about personality and gender turn out to be fairly accurate: ... On the binary Myers-Briggs measure, the thinking-feeling breakdown is about 30/70 for women versus 60/40 for men." ~ Bryan Caplan

  7. #7
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    Cheney had a heart?

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    I dont think there should be any limit, who would set it and who would police it and how would that look? No, not entirely happy with the present limits set by scarcity of resources or market forces or personal disposable income and wealth, so wouldnt want any other limits.

    Although I do think that there's bound to be a point at which rich elites will be fit to possess and control power for longer because they can live longer than everyone else, pushing the boundaries of mortality away beyond that of the plebs.

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    Interesting moral dilemma . . . let's analyze this from both ends:

    -No, setting an age restriction is ridiculous; how can we determine what a fair age limit is? Isn't presumptuous to assume that a 71 year old man might not be able to make it for another 20 years or so if given the opportunity? Who's to say that they don't deserve it? It would make more sense to give an old man a heart transplant (or any organ transplant) if he was a loved one, a contributing member of the community, someone who had others depend on him, and was otherwise a valuable asset to the community, as opposed to giving a younger man a heart transplant if he was an uncouth, troublesome, hated, and dangerous fellow who was a bane to society.

    -Yes, an age restriction is important; heart transplants are scarce, as are many other organ donations. Why should we strive to save someone of such old age anyway? Only a handful of people ever make it into their 80's and 90's, so by giving a 71 year old a heart transplant who extent only an average of ~10 years to him, where as a younger man who may need the heart more, will probably acquire an extended ~50 years in his lifetime.

    Really, as far as I can tell, it's usually crucial to investigate things thoroughly; to see what individual really deserves limited resources, and what possible reasons or negotiations can lead us to the best proper outcome.

    Also, Dick Cheney doesn't deserve a heart transplant, and no it's not because of his age, it's because he's a war-profiting piece of shit. Let him die.

  10. #10
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    Of course youth should be valued over extreme age.

    In most cases, young people do most of the work that keeps the world turning, and they're also capable of reproducing. We could say that changes with sick people, they aren't working as much or reproducing, but let's say a 40 year old who needs a new heart may already be a parent of a young child, while a 70 year old is merely a grandparent. The parent is more needed.

    Plus, we're going to have way too many old people on our hands here very shortly, and it disgusts me, because they're one hell of a fucking narcissistic generation as it is, they think everything is owed to them, and I'm not sure how that is going to play out in reality when there are more elderly than there are young.

    I say we have to let them die. Especially Dick Cheney for fuck's sake (though he probably was favored because he is Dick Cheney ).

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