Unvaccinated Patient Reportedly Denied Heart Transplant: "He Doesn't Believe In It"

Unvaccinated Patient Reportedly Denied Heart Transplant: "He Doesn't Believe In It"

"My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he's been pushed to the limit. It's kind of against his basic principles."

The family of a Boston man claims the father of two was denied a new heart because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. D.J. Ferguson, who was diagnosed with a hereditary heart issue that causes his lungs to fill with blood and fluid, was reportedly admitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital on November 26 after suffering heart failure. Although the 31-year-old was at the front of the line to receive a transplant, his family claims, hospital officials recently informed him he was ineligible for the procedure because he hasn't been vaccinated against the Coronavirus. "We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time-sensitive," they said in a fundraising appeal, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars. "This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!"


According to D.J.'s father, David Ferguson, his son refuses to get the vaccine because it goes against his "basic principles." Speaking to CBS Boston, he said: "My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he's been pushed to the limit. It's kind of against his basic principles; he doesn't believe in it. It's a policy they are enforcing and so because he won't get the shot, they took him off the list of a heart transplant." Meanwhile, D.J.'s mother—Tracey Ferguson—insists that her son isn't against vaccinations. The trained nurse told The Washington Post that D.J. has opted not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 due to concerns about side effects.


"D.J. is an informed patient," she said. "He wants to be assured by his doctors that his condition would not be worse or fatal with this COVID vaccine." Speaking to ABC News, Tracey explained that her son is worried he could experience cardiac inflammation from the vaccine—a potential side effect from the COVID-19 vaccination that the CDC emphasizes is rare and temporary. "He's not an anti-vaxxer. He has all of his vaccines, and he's an informed patient who is concerned because of his current cardiac crisis," she reiterated.


Meanwhile, Brigham and Women's Hospital maintains that it is simply following policies that are in line with the recommendations of the American Society of Transplantation and other health organizations. "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," a spokesperson told the BBC in a statement. They added that the hospital requires "the Covid-19 vaccine, and lifestyle behaviors for transplant candidates to create both the best chance for a successful operation and to optimize the patient's survival after transplantation, given that their immune system is drastically suppressed."


"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. There is no candidate who is 'first on the list' since there are varying levels of priority for allocation of organs. Waitlists are everchanging and are based on many patient and donor factors," the hospital clarified in a response posted on its website. Dr. Arthur Caplan, the Head of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, explained that being vaccinated is necessary for procedures like heart transplantation.


"Post any transplant, kidney, heart whatever, your immune system is shut off," Caplan said. "The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving." Meanwhile, D.J.—who has a third child on the way—remains at the hospital. His family said that while he has received great care from doctors and nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital, they just don't agree with the heart transplant COVID vaccination policy. "I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more," his father said. "It's his body. It's his choice."

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