February 12, 2019
OCR Resolves Disability Complaint of Individual Who Was Denied the Opportunity for Heart Transplant List Placement
On Monday, February 11, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it has successfully resolved a complaint against the University of North Carolina Health Care system (UNC Health Care) alleging that it unlawfully denied an individual the opportunity to be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list on the basis of their disability. UNC Health Care is a public academic medical center comprised of North Carolina Memorial Hospital, North Carolina Children’s Hospital, North Carolina Neurosciences Hospital, and North Carolina Women’s Hospital.
In September 2018, OCR received a complaint alleging that an individual with an intellectual disability was in need of a heart transplant, but a doctor on staff at UNC Health Care determined that they were not a good candidate for heart transplant because of their developmental learning disabilities and because they do not live independently. The complainant asserted that without the transplant, they would eventually die.
OCR used the Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) process to achieve a successful resolution of this matter. ECR is a facilitated negotiation between the parties to an OCR complaint with the goal of achieving a resolution that quickly provides a remedy to the individual that has been allegedly discriminated against as well as securing additional measures that can be implemented to reduce the likelihood of future incidents of alleged discrimination.
In January 2019, UNC Health Care agreed that the individual’s medical records will be amended to clarify that they are eligible to be considered for placement on the UNOS transplant list. OCR will provide technical assistance to UNC Health Care in the development of their transplant eligibility policy.
“Every life is precious and no one should be blocked from access to an organ transplant because of stereotypes about persons with disabilities. It is also against the law.” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “OCR commends UNC Health Care for their quick action in responding to this complaint and resolving this discriminatory and potentially life-threatening issue.”