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Children's Hospital Denies Withholding Kidney Transplant For Disabled Girl

By Pat Loeb and Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia finds itself at the center of a heated campaign to get a kidney transplant for a disabled South Jersey girl.

It started with a blog post by the girl's mother, but has gone viral on social media.

Chrissy Rivera has been blogging for months on an obscure web site for parents of children with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a developmental disability.

"She brings joy to our life," said Joe Rivera, Amelia's father.

"She's amazing. She's great. She is very loving. Her brothers love her," said Chrissy Rivera, Amelia's mother.

Amelia has had heart surgery, and now her kidneys are failing. Doctors at Children's Hospital referred to their transplant team. Her parents say that's when they were told Amelia is not a candidate for a transplant because of her mental disabilities.

"We were told many times throughout the meeting that she can not have the transplant because she's considered mentally retarded," said Chrissy.

The family says they were also told medications after a transplant would also be a problem for Amelia, who takes drugs to control seizures.

"I said so you're saying in six months to a year when her kidneys fail you want us to let her die? And he said yes," said Chrissy.

Outraged, Chrissy posted an emotional account saying that CHOP denied her two-year-old daughter, Amelia, a transplant because, by her account, the doctor said Amelia is "mentally retarded."

By Saturday, CHOP was inundated with complaints. Its Facebook page was covered with hundreds negative comments. An online petition asking the hospital to change the decision had 16,000 signatures and counting.

CHOP has issued a statement saying it cannot comment on individual cases due to medical privacy laws, but reaffirms that it does not discriminate "in any way."

Rivera, a bit surprised by the huge response, has declined to comment further, saying she likes CHOP and is still hoping for a happy ending in her daughter's case. And late this afternoon she told KYW Newsradio that the hospital had contacted her to arrange a meeting to discuss her daughter's case further.

Eyewitness News checked with the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the transplant system. A spokesperson said it's up to individual hospitals and their doctors to determine if someone is an appropriate candidate for transplantation.

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