Colorado Hospital Denying People Organ Transplants if Not COVID Vaccinated

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

A letter, allegedly from a Colorado hospital, went viral on social media yesterday because people were so disturbed by what it said. It said that they were moving the person from the list eligible for a kidney transplant to inactive and not currently eligible because that person wasn’t vaccinated for COVID.

Turns out the story was true.

University of Colorado Health made patient Leilani Lutali “inactive” on the list, as she told local media.

From KDVR:

The letter Leilani Lutali received states: “The transplant team at University of Colorado Hospital has determined that it is necessary to place you inactive on the waiting list. You will be inactivated on the list for non-compliance by not receiving the COVID vaccine. You will have 30 days to begin the vaccination series. If your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list. You will continue to accrue waiting time, but you will not receive a kidney offer while listed inactive. Once you complete the COVID vaccination series you will be reactivated on the kidney transplant list pending any other changes in your health condition.”

Not only is Luftali unvaccinated but so is the potential donor that she has so they also wouldn’t do the surgery because of that. So this decision is standing in the way of an actual transplant that could be taking place where they have actually have a donor, ready and waiting.

Lutali and Jaimee Fougner, her potential donor, both said they had religious objections to the vaccine. Lutali also said she wasn’t sure how the vaccine would work with the immunosuppressant drugs that she would be taking.

“Both from a religious standpoint, and from doing some reading, I’m not certain that this is the right way to go,” she said. “The shot’s relatively new, and as a consumer, I’m not an early adopter, I wait and see what’s going on. I feel like I’m being coerced into not being able to wait and see, and that I have to take the shot if I want this life-saving transplant.” [….]

“When I explained that no, I wouldn’t be able to take the COVID shot, then the comment was, well your journey ends here, because we require all of our donors and recipients to have the COVID-19 vaccine,” Fougner said.

“I’m a strong no on the vaccine, for sure,” she said. “We’re talking about compromising my morals, for her right to have a surgery,” Fougner said, claiming religious concerns for not being vaccinated.

UC Health isn’t denying it. Indeed they’re confirming it, saying patients who are unvaccinated will be denied in “almost all situations.” They said that some other hospitals already have this in place and “others are making this change in policy now.” Their argument is because transplant patients require continuing care that they have to evaluate “short and long term health risks” for the patients, that they require them to have other vaccinations such as for hepatitis, and that they also require them to stop smoking or avoid alcohol. They also argue if they get sick with COVID they are at greater risk of dying and that a donor could potentially pass it on to the recipient patient.

From CBS Local:

“I said I’ll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong,” said Lutali. “It’s surgery, it’s invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I’m not sure why I can’t sign a waiver for the COVID shot.”

Fougner and Lutali are friends which is why Fougner wants to give her the kidney.

“Here I am, willing to be a direct donor to her. It does not affect any other patient on the transplant list,” said Fougner. “How can I sit here and allow them to murder my friend when I’ve got a perfectly good kidney and can save her life?”

So you would put her at greater risk of dying and suffering? Even when she’s willing to sign off on the risk and absolve them of any liability? And you’re not denying anyone else a transplant because it’s a direct donation from her friend. Just remember though, it’s for her health. And they’re doing this in “almost all situations.”