Boston Hospital Will Not Perform Heart Transplant for Man Who Refuses to Get COVID Vaccine

·3 min read
Hands of operating room staff performing surgery
Hands of operating room staff performing surgery

Getty Surgery

A Boston hospital is opting against providing a heart transplant for a man who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

DJ Ferguson, 31, is desperately in need of a heart replacement, but will not get a COVID-19 vaccine. That puts him up against Brigham and Women's Hospital's policy, which requires transplant patients to be vaccinated against the virus.

"My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he's been pushed to the limit," DJ's father, David Ferguson told CBS Boston.

DJ, a father of two with another child on the way, is severely ill but ineligible due to his vaccination status.

"His heart has now deteriorated so much to the point where it will not work on its own," David said.

A view of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
A view of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Brigham and Women's Hospital

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Brigham and Women's Hospital said that they do not comment on specific patients due to HIPAA, but that their policy is designed to give organs to patients that are most likely to survive.

"Given the shortage of available organs, we do everything we can to ensure that a patient who receives a transplanted organ has the greatest chance of survival," they said. "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."

Many hospitals have opted for COVID-19 vaccination requirements for transplant patients because they are at a significantly higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus. Even prior to transplantation, they have weakened immune systems, and after surgery they have to take anti-rejection medications to prevent their body from rejecting the new organ. This medication further disrupts the immune system and blunts its ability to ward off virus like COVID-19.

"Research has shown that transplant recipients are at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 when compared to non-transplant patients," Brigham and Women's said.

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David said that his son feels that getting vaccinated is "against his basic principles, he doesn't really believe in it."

The family is not sure how to proceed, David said. They believe DJ has received excellent care from the doctors and nurses at Brigham and Women's, but they disagree with the COVID-19 vaccine policy. They are looking into moving DJ to another hospital, but he's currently too weak.

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

David said that DJ is standing up for what he believes.

"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," he said. "It's his body. It's his choice."

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