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Boston hospital refusing heart transplant for unvaccinated patient

COVID-19 vaccine. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando/TNS)
January 25, 2022

A hospital in Boston, Massachusetts is refusing to provide a patient with a heart transplant because he is refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

DJ Ferguson, 31, is on the brink of death at Brigham and Women’s Hospital but, CBS Boston reported, the hospital won’t go forward with a potentially life-saving heart transplant because of his refusal to vaccinate. Ferguson has refused the vaccine, in part because of his concern about it causing a potentially deadly heart inflammation.

The patient’s father, David Ferguson, said, “My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he’s been pushed to the limit.”

Ferguson’s family said he was at the front of the waitlist to receive the heart transplant but the hospital’s policy now states he is no longer eligible due to his refusal to get the vaccine.

“It’s kind of against his basic principles, he doesn’t believe in it,” David Ferguson said of his son. “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.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital addressed the controversy in 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 told CBS Boston, being vaccinated is necessary for this particular procedure.

“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.”

According to a GoFundMe page for his medical expenses, DJ Ferguson has been in the hospital since November, after his lungs began to fill with blood and fluid. He suffers from a hereditary heart issue and part of his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine is out of concern about the risk of the shot causing heart inflammation, a rare but known side effect.

“The vaccine typically causes swelling in the heart (usually temporary for most people no big deal right?) But in DJs case he can NOT afford for his heart to swell any more than it already is right now,” wrote GoFundMe organizer Amanda Brodeur. “He is at extremely high risk of sudden death if it does. 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.”

DJ Ferguson, who is a father of two with a third child on the way, remains hospitalized at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His family is unsure what to do at this time. Family members have considered moving him but are worried his medical state is too fragile to risk the move.

“We are aggressively pursuing all options, but we are running out of time,” David Ferguson said.

“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,” David Ferguson said. “It’s his body. It’s his choice.”