Fifteen-year-old Anthony Stokes has less than six months to live unless he receives an emergency heart transplant. But his family has been told that Anthony doesn’t qualify for the transplant list because he has a “history of non-compliance” — partly due to his history of earning low grades and having some trouble with the law.
“They said they don’t have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups,” Melencia Hamilton, Anthony’s mother, told WSBTV News. Hamilton explained that her son has an enlarged heart, and a transplant is the only thing that will help his condition.
The doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta weren’t very specific about what exactly contributed to their decision to label Anthony as “non-compliant.” But family friends explained to WSBTV News that they were told it’s partly because of Anthony’s performance in school and run-ins with law enforcement.
His family and friends don’t accept that as a valid reason to deny the teen life-saving treatment. “We must save Anthony’s life,” family friend Mack Major, identified as Anthony’s mentor, told CBS Atlanta. “We don’t have a lot of time to do it, but it’s something that must be done.”
Civil rights organizations are beginning to take up Anthony’s cause, saying a child’s past shouldn’t have anything to do with the medical care they receive. “He’s been given a death sentence because of a broad and vague excuse of non-compliance,” a representative from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Christine Young Brown, said. “There was nothing specific in that decision. Just non-compliance.”
Regardless of Anthony’s specific past, his story fits into a larger pattern of racially-motivated skepticism about young black men. The routine criminalization of black youth — thanks in large part to the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline,” which funnels a disproportionate number of black teens into the justice system for minor infractions — ensures that teens like Anthony are often seen as threats. And once society labels those kids as criminal, suspect, or “non-compliant,” their lives are typically considered to have less value.
The hospital has reversed course and agreed to put Anthony on the transplant list. Hospital officials told the Stokes family that Anthony will be at the top of the list because his condition is so serious. They did not offer a reason for changing their minds about his heart transplant.