By Nathan L. Walls

Transplant death by neglect

The most critical aspect post-transplant life for solid organ transplant recipients is staying on schedule with anti-rejection medications.

Transplant recipients ride a sometime precarious balance of keeping a healthy immune system, but not so strong that the body starts rejecting a transplanted organ. Depending on the transplant program, the match between the donor and the recipient, living with a transplant means at least one, but likely more, medication taken on a regular schedule, every day, for life. One my anti-rejection meds is taken twice daily, 12 hours apart.

Knowing this, it was utterly depressing to read of Dexter Barry’s death in Florida because he was arrested for a misdemeanor, could not pay bail, was jailed, and denied access to his anti-rejection medications.

Juliana Kim for NPR:

Barry, 54, pleaded with the arresting officer seven times back in November. He alerted the jail nurse and a court judge about his condition too. But in the two days that Barry was held at Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Fla., no one allowed him access to the medication he desperately asked for.

Three days after he was released from jail, Barry died from cardiac arrest that was caused by an acute rejection of the heart, Dr. Jose SuarezHoyos, a Florida pathologist who conducted a private autopsy of Barry on behalf of Barry’s family, told NPR.

The article highlights that Barry waited 12 years for tranplant, and moved to increase his chances. Heart transplants require deceased donors, so I can readily appreciate finding an area where wait time for a deceased donor is lower.

I’m aghast at the repeated instances of preventable deaths in jails because seemingly no one can be bothered to follow-up and follow-through on making sure the incarcerated have the medical care they need. In this case, a man died, in part, because he could not readily pay $503 to satisfy bail conditions. Utterly abhorrent.