As ThinkProgress previously reported, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) advocated for and passed budget cuts last year that cut off urgent transplant funding that was previously promised to 98 Arizonans. In late November, Mark Price, an Arizona father who had been battling leukemia for a year, died due to complications related to chemotherapy treatment he was receiving. Price was awaiting an organ transplant that could’ve saved his life, but he was unable to receive one in time due to Brewer’s budget cuts.
Now, the University of Arizona Medical Center has told the press that another patient passed away in late December because they were unable to get their organ transplant funded. Although the attending physicians declined to release the name of the patient out of respect for the family’s privacy, they confirmed that the patient that passed away was one of the 98 Arizonans cut off from organ transplants by Brewer and the GOP-controlled state legislature. He “was our patient. He was on our list,” said surgery department spokeswoman Jo Marie Gellerman.
Local news station KGUN reported the second death and tracked down two patients who are still waiting for transplants. They interviewed 48-year old David Hernandez, who has a terminal lung disease and will die without a transplant. They also highlighted the case of 27-year old Tiffany Tate, who also needs a lung transplant to save her life. Despite placing three phone calls and an e-mail, the station was unable to receive any response from Brewer’s office.
KGUN was able to interview Sen. Frank Antenori (R) — a Brewer ally who has long fought for provisions to prevent abortions, based on his supposed belief in the sanctity of human life — who told them that he wishes the legislature “had the money and it was flowing from the hills to fund everything we want to fund. Tough decisions are being made because we’re in a budget crisis right now.” Interestingly, the station found out that all state employees are entitled to medical benefits subsidized by taxpayers, and that “yes, they do cover organ transplants.” Watch it:
After learning about the plight of the 98 Arizonan patients, Steven Daglas, an Illinois State GOP Central Committeeman, worked with several others to analyze the Arizona state budget and finances to develop funding solutions that would allow the state to fully fund the transplants for all of the remaining patients without actually raising any new revenue. The possible solutions included using $2 million from an AIG settlement that the state of Arizona will receive or “transferring $1.2 million in funds that Arizona once planned to use to build bridges for endangered squirrels.” Yet even after repeatedly sending his proposal to Brewer since December, Daglas has received zero response from the governor. He told The Arizona Republic that she may be ignoring his proposal out of the fear that he’s trying to politically damage her, but he explained, “I’m a Republican guy from Illinois…We’re just concerned about these transplant patients and want to help”:
Since early last month, Daglas and those with whom he is working have been reaching out to the governor and her staff with the ideas. Among other things, they sent a letter that required a signature confirmation so they knew the information was getting through. But they haven’t heard back.
“We’re worried that maybe her office is thinking that we’re offering these ideas as a way to attack her or make her look bad, and that isn’t it at all,” Daglas said. “I’m a Republican guy from Illinois. We have plenty of problems up here. We’re just concerned about these transplant patients and want to help. We have provided detailed information about the suggestions, the statutes, the original sources and so on.”
The failure of Brewer to respond to the funding proposal has frustrated Daglas, and this morning he joined with five of the patients in need of transplants and launched a website, Arizona98.com. The website lists 26 possible ways that Arizona can shift funding in order to pay for the transplant procedures without having to raise any additional revenue. As the Arizona Republic notes, the savings Arizona is supposed to have by not funding the transplants amount to $1.36 million. As Arizona98.com notes, “The fact our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters (hard-working citizens and good people) have been deemed expendable at a price of $13,877.56 per human life still does not make sense.”
“I refuse to believe that any person or state will spend $1.25 million to save 5 squirrels a year, but not 98 human beings. It can’t be true. That just doesn’t make any sense,” Daglas told ThinkProgress.