Dick Cheney Heart Transplant: Preferential Treatment for Cheney?
Should Dick Cheney Have Gotten That Heart Transplant?
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who was both in the White House and on the board of Halliburton when the US invaded Iraq for the second time, got a heart transplant on March 24, 2012.
The fact that Dick Cheney is arguably a war criminal cannot help but color the discussion: to put it bluntly, people tend to see Dick Cheney as Darth Vader: when we hear "Dick Cheney got a heart transplant", the immediate reaction is, "at whose expense?".
What Makes Dick Cheney a Viable Heart-Transplant Candidate?
Here are the pertinent facts, though: Dick Cheney is 71 years old; the average US life expectancy is only a few years more.
Dick Cheney also has a long record of cardiovascular problems: Cheney has had five heart attacks in the last 25 years. (The new heart should be good for about 13 years of avoiding Canada and shooting people in the face on hunting trips.)
There are always more patients than available hearts, so different regions have waiting lists. The question is, did Dick Cheney get preferential treatment? After all, Cheney is the epitome of "rich and connected", and surely there were younger people on the list, with more encouraging medical histories.
As it turns out, the answer seems to be "no". Actually Dick Cheney waited 20 months to get his new (pre-owned) heart, or so we're told; whereas the national average is 12 months. Since all of Cheney's major health problems were deemed heart-related, he was considered a viable candidate for a heart transplant: that's the way it's supposed to work.
If Dick Cheney were, for example, on the verge of multiple organ failure, that could have been a deal-breaker for a heart transplant, and the donated organ would go to the next person on the list.
We've heard that there's an age limit of 65 for heart transplants in America, but that's actually untrue. There's no defined upper age limit for heart transplants in the US: it's the other health factors that influence who gets the next heart. The issue of fairness (Cheney has already had a lifetime of access to healthcare that's beyond the reach of most Americans) is not a factor.
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.
The limiting reagent here is the rate of organ donation: if you want to see the heart-transplant wait times go down over time, then sign up to become an organ donor. Over 300 people die each year while waiting for a heart transplant in America.