“This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!” a distraught family said.
A man from Boston was reportedly denied a new heart for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Now, the hospital that denied the man his surgery is defending its choice, stating that most transplant programs around the country set similar requirements to improve patients’ chances of survival, per NBC News.
D.J. Ferguson—who was diagnosed with arrhythmia four years ago—was denied a heart transplant surgery by the officials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, per ABC News. They told the 31-year-old father of two that he was ineligible for the procedure because he wasn't vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time-sensitive,” the desperate family said in its fundraising appeal. “This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!”
According to Ferguson's mom Tracey Ferguson, her son is not against vaccines in general. She revealed that he has had immunizations in the past, but since he's been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation—an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm—he has concerns about the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“D.J. is an informed patient,” Tracey Ferguson said in a brief interview at her home in Mendon, about 30 miles southwest of Boston. “He wants to be assured by his doctors that his condition would not be worse or fatal with this COVID vaccine.”
Meanwhile, Brigham and Women’s Hospital refused to comment on D.J. Ferguson’s case, citing patient privacy laws. But the hospital pointed to a response that was posted on its website in which it said the Covid-19 vaccine is one of several immunizations required by most U.S. transplant programs, including a flu shot and hepatitis B vaccines.
According to the hospital, transplant patients are at higher risk than non-transplant patients of dying from Covid-19. The hospital's policies are in line with the recommendations of the American Society of Transplantation and other health organizations.
Along with the vaccine mandate, patients must meet other health and lifestyle criteria to receive donated organs, but it is unclear if Ferguson had met all the criteria needed. Also, officials said that since there is a scarcity of donor organs, transplant centers only put patients on the waiting list who they feel are the most likely to survive with a new organ. “Given the shortage of available organs, we do everything we can to ensure that a patient who receives a transplanted organ has the greatest chance of survival,” the hospital said.
The hospital also said that no patient is placed on an organ waitlist without meeting those criteria, and rejected the notion that a transplant candidate could be considered “first on the list” for an organ—a claim Ferguson’s family made in its fundraising post.
“There are currently more than 100,000 candidates on waitlists for organ transplantation and a shortage of available organs — around half of people on waiting lists will not receive an organ within five years,” the hospital said.
Recently, DJ Ferguson underwent open-heart surgery to place a mechanical heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device. This should keep him alive for up to five years, according to his parents, who worry about the toll the device will have on their son's quality of life.
"For the foreseeable future, he won't be able to shower, he won't be able to swim. He won't be able to have a life," dad David Ferguson said. Only time will tell if he will receive the heart via transplant or not.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe | Ferguson Relief & Medical Fund
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