Imagine yourself a victim of identity theft – your credit is destroyed and correcting the fraud takes years to resolve. Now imagine in addition to this nightmare, your ability to get a lifesaving organ transplant negatively impacted by this fraud!
A stolen laptop from a hospital in Houston, Texas contained the personal information of over 1,300 patients waiting for organ transplants. Paper files were also reported missing. This could potentially affect these patients’ eligibility to receive an organ. There are currently over 119,000 people in the United States on the transplant list and there simply aren’t enough organs for everyone.
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There are many factors when determining who will receive an organ. It may not be the person with the greatest medical need or on the wait list the longest. While it may seem unfair, who can take care of the numerous needs after the transplant is also a consideration? Sometimes a recipient will need physical rehabilitation after surgery. There are scores of tests that need to be done on a regular basis to check for rejection and infection. There are immunosuppressants to stop the body from attacking the new organ, which can cost upwards of $10,000 a year and are needed for the lifetime of the transplanted organ. There are also the other medications needed to address the side effects of the immunosuppressants. Then, because their immune system is suppressed, transplant recipients tend to get infections more easily, and may require hospitalization.
If someone uses the information stolen in the Texas incident to open new lines of credit, it could potentially destroy the waiting recipient’s credit score. As the go-to indicator of their inability to handle the financial responsibly after a transplant, this could be devastating to their chances. Sentara recently gave victims of stolen information from their system a one-year subscription to a credit monitoring service. The Texas hospital involved here has given a one-year subscription to an identity theft protection service to everyone whose information was stolen. Because some patients wait for years before receiving an organ and the thieves could hold this information forever, these victims will have to be extra vigilant in guarding their credit for the rest of their lives.