"When we fear that someone's not going to do well, it's because the patient couldn't comply with the regimen or they don't have any support in their life," he said.
Psychosocial factors don't change a person's priority on the waiting list, but they could lead a person to be denied a spot on that list, he said.
The trouble with teens
Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, noted that patients have to adhere to a lifelong regimen after receiving an organ transplant -- showing up at medical appointments, taking medications, monitoring changes in health -- and teenagers in general don't have a good track record of following orders.
Teenagers aren't automatically ruled out for heart transplants, but "the consequence that 'you are going to die if you don't take these medicines' is far from the mind of a 17-year-old," said Davies, the cardiothoracic surgeon.
Instead of denying Anthony a spot on the transplant list, Caplan suggested that the boy should be counseled and worked with intensively so he understands what's expected post-transplant -- that is, if the teenager can get a heart.
Bell said the family didn't press the doctor on what led to overturning the decision regarding the transplant list.
Personally, Bell attributes it to "the handiwork of God and the media pressure."
In a video released by a family friend to CNN affiliate WSB before the reversal, Anthony plays chess and looks longingly outside his hospital window.
The hospital did not comment on what led to doctors' change of heart.