A US hospital has denied a patient a heart transplant, claiming, among other reasons, that he was not vaccinated against Covid-19.
DJ Ferguson, 31, is in dire need of a new heart, but Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has taken him off the transplant list, said his father, David.
David said the Covid vaccine goes against “your son’s basic principles, he doesn’t believe in it”.
The hospital said it was following its transplant policy.
“Given the shortage of available organs, we do everything we can to ensure that a patient who receives a transplanted organ has the best chance of survival,” Brigham and Women’s Hospital told the BBC in a statement.
A spokesperson said the hospital requires “the Covid-19 vaccine and certain behaviors and lifestyle for transplant candidates to create the best chance for an operation to be successful and optimize patient survival after the transplant, as your immune system is drastically suppressed”.
The hospital’s statement indicates that reasons other than the patient’s unvaccinated status may have contributed to his ineligibility for the transplant. But the hospital declined to discuss details, citing patient privacy.
The hospital added that most of the 100,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplants will not receive an organ within five years due to a shortage of available organs.
Ferguson has been in the hospital since November 26. He suffers from an inherited heart condition that causes his lungs to fill with blood and fluid, according to a page on the fundraiser website GoFundMe.
The crowdfunding organizer for Ferguson said the patient is concerned about the possibility of experiencing cardiac inflammation — a potential side effect of coronavirus vaccination that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasize is rare and temporary — and that it could be dangerous because of the weakness of his heart.
The CDC encourages transplant recipients and those in their immediate circles to be fully vaccinated, including a booster dose.
Arthur Caplan, director of Medical Ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS News that after any organ transplant, a patient’s immune system is virtually “turned off” and that even a common cold can be fatal.
“Organs are in short supply, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has little chance of living when other vaccinees are more likely to survive after surgery,” Caplan said.
A father of two with a third on the way, Ferguson remains in hospital, family members say.
His family believes he is too weak to be transferred to another hospital and that he is “running out of time”.
“My boy is fighting with a lot of courage and he has integrity and principles that he really believes in, and that makes me respect him even more,” said David Ferguson. “It’s his body. It’s his choice.”
Just over 63% of the US population received two shots of the vaccine and about 40% of Americans had the third booster shot.