A Change of Heart

by llll on April 2, 2015 - 5:42pm

It has only been a day since Anthony Stokes died of a car crash after a high-speed police chase. He had broken into an elderly woman’s home, fired shots and stolen her car.[1][2] When he lost control of the stolen car and crashed into a pole, it was not his heart that stopped, but one that was donated to him after a controversial battle to enlist him for heart transplant.

Two years ago, the 15-year-old Anthony Stokes was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and only had 6 to 9 months to live. His only option was to receive a heart transplant. However, the doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston had denied his request to be put on the transplant list because of “a history of non-compliance”. According to the hospital, there are strict guidelines for getting into the list. Anthony’s parents claimed that he was denied due to his bad grades and history with law enforcement.

It was only after his story was released by local news and had gathered support from the people that his application denial had been reversed.[3] The media had put massive pressure on the hospital to enlist Anthony for a heart transplant. For example, one interview with the teenager showed clips of him playing chess and gazing out the window. The reporters called the story “heartbreaking” and spoke in a sad tone. Hailed as an angel and a victim, the media had given no information on Anthony’s bad behavior and history with law enforcement. Some interviews even blamed this case on racism and injustice.

The attention from the media – quite literally – changed his life. He was given a second chance at life, in which he said that he’d “do things he’d want to do.”[4] Some people expressed their happiness and were hopeful that Anthony would turn his life around. In an interview, the 15-year old expressed his desires to finish high school and attend college.

Only for it to end two years later, with his mangled body dragged out into an ambulance along with an injured pedestrian.

Has the donated heart gone to waste? If the media had not intervened, would it have been morally right to leave the 15-year-old Anthony to die in his hospital bed?

Hindsight is always 20/20. The tone of the media had changed from support to disappointment. Jovita Moore, reporter for WSBTV called it a “damn shame”. Many readers show anger over the case, with one saying how it is “difficult to feel sympathy” due to the circumstances.

The media had given Anthony a new heart, but had immediately abandoned him right after. The new heart was useless without a new mentality. As many others said[5], the media should have also been with Stokes to change his attitude and improve his life.

The last pictures on Anthony’s Facebook showcase mirror selfies with guns, money and alcohol. His controversial transplant proved to the public that the media is a powerful tool and demonstrated how no one was “unworthy” of saving. Stokes was able to bypass the guidelines and garner support from the locals. While it was a great case for equality two years ago, Anthony’s unchanged delinquency and subsequent death brought out new questions.

Who was right in this case? Were the doctors’ decision to deny his transplant request justified enough? Were the media crossing the line by changing their decision?

The general consensus was how troubling that no one was around Anthony to change his lifestyle. While Anthony did have a history of delinquency, programs such as Big Brother are available to change that. The fact that everyone – the hospital, the media, the family – had abandoned the teenager after his transplant is appalling. While the hospital was right in predicting the outcome of the transplant, they were wrong in their actions. Instead of helping Anthony out of trouble and misdemeanor, they had chosen to leave him behind by denying his request for a transplant. The media, thinking that the problem had been solved after the successful transplant, had also forgotten about him.

It is clear that Anthony Stokes had the right to a transplant. The powerful influence of the media had rightfully given him the opportunity to a second life, but had unfortunately left him alone and uncared for. This resulted in a tragic end to his new life, drowned in crime and violence. Like many have expressed, a change of heart does not necessarily result in a change of soul.


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