What Prevents Surgeons And Hospitals From Providing Free Surgery To Save A Life?

Sunset at Organ Pipes

Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr

News organizations are reporting this evening that at least two patients have died in Arizona because the state has decided it can no longer afford to pay for organ transplants for low-income patients.

The organ transplants can cost from $200,000 to more than $1 million, according to NPR.  A list of 98 patients are potentially impacted in Arizona. NPR provided this explanation of the Arizona budget decision in November:

“In Arizona, 98 low-income patients approved for organ transplants have been told they are no longer getting them because of state budget cuts.

The patients receive medical coverage through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s version of Medicaid.” — National Public Radio

WTF?  How can a state justify refusing organ transplants to low-income patients, particularly in cases where the refusal amounts to a death sentence without a trial?

But there’s another question that’s even more compelling:

Why have no surgeons or hospitals offered to do the life-saving surgery for free?

What prevents a doctor or hospital from providing free life-saving treatment? DO THE SURGERY FOR FREE! Would that be un-American?

Am I missing something here? Would a surgeon or hospital spokesperson care to comment? Is there not a single, altruistic transplant surgeon in America? Is there not a single hospital affiliated with a religion that would be willing to provide free surgery as an act of charity, for God’s sake?

What? Would it set a bad precedent, or something?

— John Hayden