A 31-year-old father has been removed from the heart transplant list at a Boston hospital as a result of his decision to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, his family said.
DJ Ferguson was first on the list to receive the transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; however he is no longer eligible because of his vaccination status, CBS Boston reported.
Ferguson’s father, David, said getting vaccinated is “kind of against his basic principles” and that his son “doesn’t believe in it.”
“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… It’s his body. It’s his choice.”
“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,” David told CBS Boston. “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 is considering transferring him to another hospital, but his wife said that he may be too weak to move. “At this point DJ is unable to leave the hospital until he gets the heart surgery he needs. Without the surgery his lungs and heart will continue to fill up with blood and fluid (on top of everything else that’s going on),” said Ferguson’s wife, Heather Dawson, on Facebook.
The hospital, which has a list of protocols for transplant candidates that includes a ban on lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol, said requiring the COVID vaccine is common at many medical centers throughout the country.
Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS Boston that vaccination is a requirement for transplants because, after receiving a new organ, patients’ immune systems are essentially switched off.
“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,” he explained.
Ferguson has two children and is expecting a third with his partner Heather, according to a GoFundMe page set up for him.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is a Harvard teaching facility, said research had shown transplant recipients were at a much higher risk of dying from COVID compared to non-transplant patients.
“We do everything we can to ensure that a patient who receives a transplanted organ has the greatest chance of survival,” a spokesperson told The Post.
“Our Mass General Brigham healthcare system requires several CDC-recommended vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, and lifestyle behaviors for transplant candidates to create both the best chance for a successful operation and to optimize the patient’s survival after transplantation, given that their immune system is drastically suppressed Patients are not active on the waitlist without this.”
The hospital’s policy requiring recipients to have the COVID-19 shot is in line with many other transplant programs across the US, the spokesperson added.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SF CHRONICLE