A Boston hospital says it won’t consider performing a heart transplant on a patient who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
David Ferguson said his 31-year-old son, DJ Ferguson, is fighting for his life at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in desperate need of a heart transplant.
“His heart has deteriorated so much that it won’t work on its own,” David said.
The family says he was at the front of the line to receive a transplant but because he has not received the COVID-19 vaccination, he is no longer eligible according to hospital policy. David said DJ refuses to get the shot.
“It’s kind of against his basic principles. He doesn’t really believe in it,” he said.
The hospital released a statement saying, “Like many other transplant programs in the United States — the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several vaccines and lifestyle behaviors required for transplant candidates in the Mass General Brigham system in order to create both the best chance for a successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation.”
Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, explains that being vaccinated is necessary for this type of procedure.
“Post any transplant, kidney, heart, whatever, your immune system is shut off,” he said. “The flu could kill, a cold could kill you, covid could kill you. The organs are scarce and they 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.”
DJ is a father of two children with a third child on the way. His family says they’re not sure what they plan to do. They’re thinking about transferring him, but he may be too weak to be moved.
The family says DJ has received great care at the hospital from doctors and nurses, they just don’t agree with the heart transplant COVID vaccination policy.
“My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns,” David said. “It’s his body, it’s his choice.”
A mechanical pump is another option for DJ instead of a transplant. Doctors will do that surgery even if he is not vaccinated.