Updated: Jan 27, 2022
A US hospital has rejected a patient for a heart transplant, at least in part because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
DJ Ferguson, 31, desperately needs a new heart, but Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has taken him off the list, his father David said.
He said the Covid vaccine goes against his son's "basic principles. He does not believe in it".
The hospital said it was following the guidelines.
Brigham and Women's Hospital told Dubai Route in a statement: "Given the shortage of available organs, we are doing everything we can to ensure that a patient who receives a transplanted organ has the greatest chance of survival."
A spokesperson said the hospital required "the COVID-19 vaccine and lifestyle measures for transplant candidates to both create the best chance of a successful operation and optimise the patient's survival after the transplant as their immune system is drastically suppressed".
The hospital's carefully worded statement may suggest that other factors besides the patient's unvaccinated status are responsible for his unfitness, but the hospital declined to provide details, citing patient privacy.
The hospital added that most of the 100,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists would not receive an organ within five years due to the lack of available organs.
Mr Ferguson has been in hospital since last Thanksgiving weekend, 26 November 2021. He suffers from a hereditary heart defect that causes his lungs to fill with blood and fluid. He shared on GoFundMe.
The fundraiser organiser said Mr Ferguson was concerned that he could develop heart inflammation - a possible side effect of the coronavirus vaccination, which is rare and temporary, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - and that this could be dangerous given the weakness of his heart.
The CDC advises transplant recipients and their families to get fully vaccinated and refreshed.
Dr Arthur Caplan, head of the department of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS News that after an organ transplant, a patient's immune system is all but shut down, and even a cold can be fatal.
"Organs are in short supply. We are not going to give them to someone who has a poor chance of survival when others who are vaccinated have a better chance of survival after surgery," Dr Caplan said.
According to his relatives, the father of two, who is expecting a third child, remains in hospital.
His family says he is too weak to be transferred to another hospital and is "running out of time".
"My boy is fighting bravely as hell, and he has integrity and principles that he believes in and that makes me respect him all the more," David Ferguson said.
"It's his body, and it's his decision."
This is not the first time an unvaccinated American has faced obstacles in health care in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, a Minnesota woman sued her local hospital after doctors tried to take her unvaccinated husband off the ventilator he had been on for two months.
Over 63% of the US population is dually vaccinated, and about 40% of Americans have received a third booster shot.
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