Hospital Defends Decision to Deny This Man a Transplant

Brigham and Women’s Hospital says most transplant programs require vaccines
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 27, 2022 1:29 AM CST
Hospital Defends Itself After Unvaccinated Man Denied Transplant
This Nov. 27, 2021, photo provided by Tracey Ferguson shows her son D.J. Ferguson initially being treated at Milford, Mass. Regional Medical Center.   (Tracey Ferguson via AP)

A Boston hospital is defending itself after a man's family claimed he was denied a new heart for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying most transplant programs around the country set similar requirements to improve patients’ chances of survival. The family of DJ Ferguson said in a crowdfunding appeal this week that officials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told the 31-year-old father of two that he was ineligible for the procedure because he hasn’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus, a decision he made due to concerns over how any possible vaccine side effects could affect his heart condition. Brigham and Women’s Hospital declined to comment on Ferguson’s case specifically, citing patient privacy laws. But it pointed to a response that it posted on its website in which it said the COVID vaccine is one of several immunizations required by most US transplant programs, including a flu shot and hepatitis B vaccines, the AP reports.

The hospital said research has shown that transplant recipients are at higher risk than non-transplant patients of dying from COVID-19, and that its policies are in line with the recommendations of the American Society of Transplantation and other health organizations. Patients also must meet other health and lifestyle criteria to receive donated organs, and it's unknown if Ferguson did or would have met them. Brigham & Womens Hospital also stressed 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. There is a scarcity of donor organs, so transplant centers only place patients on the waiting list whom they deem the most likely to survive with a new organ. “A donor heart is a precious and scarce gift which must be cared for well,” said Dr. Howard Eisen, medical director for the advanced heart failure program at Penn State University in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to preserve patient survival and good outcomes post-transplant.” (More of Ferguson's story here.)

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