Chrissy and Joe Rivera of Stratford, N.J., say they were shocked when a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told them their 3-year-old daughter Amelia was not eligible for a kidney transplant -- even though she will need a new kidney within a year.
"He had told us she wasn't eligible for a transplant because of 'mental retardation,' was the word he used," Chrissy Rivera said.
"It was upsetting, and I think it was handled the wrong way," Joe Rivera added.
Amelia has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a rare genetic condition that has mental and physical effects. She can't walk or talk, but she communicates with her eyes and smile.
"We just love her. She is part of the family," her mother said.
**Following Dale Hurd's story, CBN News interviewed Dr. David Stevens, the chief executive officer of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, the nation's largest faith-based organization of doctors. Dr. Stevens says a new way of thinking has infiltrated medicine and this case is an example of it. He appeared on CBN News weeknight newscast "Newswatch," Jan. 18.
The Riveras posted their story on a Wolf-Hirschorn website, which led to outrage from other Wolf Hirschhorn parents who believe the children's hospital is discriminating.
So far, some 25,000 people have signed a petition urging the hospital to allow the transplant.
A spokesperson for the hospital says they cannot comment due to privacy laws, but said that, "the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia does not disqualify potential transplant candidates on the basis of intellectual abilities."
University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said in this kind of situation, it depends on the precise medical concerns of the hospital beyond the mental retardation.
"If that is all that is being taken into account, that's bias, that's discriminatory," Caplan said. "But if it's a genetic disorder that has many other complications medically then it's appropriate and not unethical."
"Everyone deserves an equal chance to these organs, regardless of your mental capacity," Charles Camosy, a professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University, said.
But Camosy, like Caplan, suggested there may be other factors involved in the hospital's decision.
"Other factors the hospital may be considering are the medical issues associated with Wolf-Hirschhorn, including a weakened immune system, heart disease, and the acute shortage of kidneys available for young children," he said.