DJ Ferguson Boston patient at Brigham and Women’s Hospital refused heart transplant cause he is unvaccinated. Family consider seeking out new hospital with less binding policy despite risks.
Right of choice even if it means heightened risk of possible death?
David Ferguson told WBZ-TV this week that his 31-year-old son DJ Ferguson‘s heart has deteriorated to the point that it will no longer work on its own. Thankfully, he was first in line to receive a heart transplant. Yet because of his unvaccinated status, the hospital ruled that he was no longer eligible for the transplant.
‘My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he’s been pushed to the limit,’ Ferguson told WBZ-TV adding that his son simply won’t get the shot. ‘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.’
In a statement, Brigham and Women’s Hospital confirmed its decision to remove Ferguson from the list, 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.’
At what cost integrity and principles?
The family is now reportedly considering every option to save their son, including seeking transfer to a different hospital facility that doesn’t have a vaccine requirement in place. But a transfer could be dangerous since DJ may already be too weak to move.
‘We are aggressively pursuing all options, but we are running out of time,’ David Ferguson said.
DJ Ferguson is a father of two children with a third on the way. His family said that while they are pleased with the great care he has received from staff at Brigham and Women’s, they just don’t agree with the hospital’s 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,’ the father said, adding, ‘It’s his body, it’s his choice.’
But that’s not how the hospital, nor some other medical experts, see it.
Speaking with WBZ, Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, sided with the hospital’s decision, explaining that transplant patients are at particular risk due to a compromised immune system.
‘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.’
Science vs personal beliefs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that immunocompromised people, which includes organ transplant recipients, be vaccinated because they are especially vulnerable to COVID.
The mortality rate for transplant patients who get COVID is more than 20 percent, according to UCHealth which operates hospitals and urgent care facilities throughout Colorado.
‘An organ transplant is a unique surgery that leads to a lifetime of specialized management to ensure an organ is not rejected, which can lead to serious complications, the need for a subsequent transplant surgery, or even death,’ UCHealth told the nypost in a statement.
‘Physicians must consider the short- and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant.’
Reflected DJ’s father: ‘We have had many conversations with the doctors, who confirmed that his heart COULD swell and go into severe crisis but they can’t guarantee anything and it’s a choice we will have to make if he wants to be listed.’