After successful petition, girl finally receives kidney transplant

Photo of a stethoscope and gavel
Medical Justice

Amelia Rivera is at home recovering from the kidney transplant she received in early July, following a national outcry when she was initially denied the procedure.

In January 2012, the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia denied Rivera, a three-year-old girl with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a kidney transplant, using the fact that she was “mentally retarded,” among other reasons, for its decision. More than 50,000 people subsequently signed a petition demanding that the hospital reconsider, prompting the hospital to change its decision that August.

“As a community, we organized our demolition equipment through the power of social media,” Rivera’s mother, Chrissy, wrote on her blog July 30. “Every day I was awed at the amount of supporters who wanted to help take down this wall that was keeping Amelia and others like her from getting the medical care they deserved.”

In response, the New Jersey Senate unanimously passed a bill in August 2012 that prohibits hospitals from taking an individual’s physical or mental disabilities into account when making transplant decisions.

In June 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law, the first of its type of in the nation.

“People with developmental disabilities should not be treated as second-class citizens,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger in June. “Their disabilities do not make them any less human or worthy of respect and common decency. They should be afforded the same rights as anyone would want when entering a hospital.”