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Georgia Toddler Initially Denied Kidney Due to Father’s Parole Violation

by Monte McCoin

Officials at Emory Healthcare canceled a planned October 2017 surgery to harvest a kidney from an Atlanta toddler’s father, who had volunteered to be a living donor. According to news reports, the hospital postponed the donor arrangement after the father, Anthony Dickerson, was arrested on a parole violation several days before the surgery.

Two-year-old A.J. Burgess was born without kidneys, and was not expected to live without a transplant. Dickerson was found to be a perfect match for his son.

According to the family’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, Dickerson had already complied with an extensive living donor evaluation, but in the week leading up to the surgery he was jailed for five days due to a parole violation. “He made it his business to say, ‘Once I get out, I’m gonna promise to my son that he can get a kidney,’” A.J.’s mother stated.

Dickerson was released the day before the scheduled procedure, but when the family arrived at the medical center on October 3, 2017, Emory Healthcare officials told them that because Dickerson had been arrested, he would need to provide proof of compliance with his parole conditions for 90 days before the surgery could proceed.

According to Davis, the hospital’s justification for delaying the transplant was to ensure that Dickerson would be in a position after the procedure to adhere to the after-care requirements for living donors. Davis added, “His parole probation status should not, as far as we’re concerned, be a factor at all.”

After A.J.’s health deteriorated, activists from the community and Emory’s Candler School of Theology protested the hospital’s decision, and Emory officials began to work with the family to find a solution. On November 22, 2017, A.J. received a kidney transplant from an unrelated, deceased donor. He is now reportedly doing fine. 



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