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ERICKSON: Failures of responsibility

Two years ago, then 15-year-old Anthony Stokes needed a heart transplant. He would die without one. No one questioned that. But Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta determined Anthony Stokes did not qualify.

Transplant centers do detailed surveys to determine if someone qualifies for a transplant. Social workers are involved. Doctors are involved. Together they determined Stokes would not get a heart. His grades were bad. He was in and out of trouble with the law. The survey of Anthony Stokes’ life showed pretty conclusively that he would not be a good candidate because he was highly likely to not do the things he would need to do to take care of his new heart.

Stokes’ family cried racism. Liberal advocacy groups swung into action. They claimed Anthony Stokes was denied a heart because he was a 15-year-old black male. They did not care about the facts. They did not care about the survey. They did not care about the accuracy of the data. Stokes needed a heart, he was black, and they would scream racism until he got one.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was in a terrible position. Federal law would not let them say anything. Patient privacy allowed Anthony Stokes to make all sorts of allegations and all Children’s Healthcare could do was state repeatedly that he did not meet the criteria. That was it.

What many, though not all, of Anthony Stokes’ advocates knew and what Stokes and his family knew was what Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was forbidden to say. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hinted at the problem, writing at the time, “People who receive transplants must adhere to strict medication regimens to keep their bodies from rejecting the organs. A person can be disqualified if hospital officials think the patient won’t stick to that regimen, has no support system or an inability to pay for expensive anti-rejection medicines.” Rumors swirled in the medical community that this was not Anthony Stokes’ first time dealing with this issue.

Given the claims, screams and required nonresponse of the hospital, Anthony Stokes got his heart. The hospital put him on the list its criteria said he did not deserve to be on and someone else was deprived of a heart.

Two weeks ago, now 17-year-old Anthony Stokes died. His heart stopped, but it was not because he failed to take medication. It stopped because, according to police, Anthony Stokes carjacked someone at Perimeter Mall, then tried to shoot an elderly woman during an attempted burglary, then hit a pedestrian in the ensuing car chase, then crashed the car and died.

Earlier this week in Atlanta, almost a dozen teachers went to jail. They had been caught up in the Atlanta Public Schools teaching scandal. Having been found guilty, they were offered a deal -- forgo appeals, plead guilty and stay out of jail except on the weekends in some cases. Only two took the deal. The others refused to accept responsibility.

Anthony Stokes never took responsibility for his actions. He never changed his ways. He wanted a second chance, bullied a hospital into giving him one and abused that chance. It is his fault and he paid a terrible price. But watching those teachers refuse to accept their responsibility, I could not help but think this is a pattern.

When the adults in children’s lives refuse to accept their responsibilities, children learn. When the adults cheat, children learn. Society depends on everyone one day standing up and deciding to do what is right. But what happens when a child barely knows what is right?

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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