Colorado Hospital System Denies Organ Transplants For Unvaccinated Patients

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Kira Mautone Contributor
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The University of Colorado’s health system announced Tuesday that patients awaiting an organ transplant are now required to be vaccinated in order to receive a transplant.

“In almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors at UCHealth are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to meeting other health requirements and receiving additional vaccinations,” UCHealth said in a statement given to KDVR. “Some U.S. transplant centers already have this requirement in place, and others are making this change in policy now.”

Leilani Lutali, a patient on the kidney transplant list at UCHealth, has been moved to inactive status due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19, KDVR reported. Her potential donor, Jamie Fougner, was also deemed ineligible for the procedure since she is also unvaccinated. Both Lutali and Fougner claimed that they have religious concerns regarding the vaccine, according to KDVR.

“Both from a religious standpoint, and from doing some reading, I’m not certain that this is the right way to go,” Lutali said, according to KDVR. “The shot’s relatively new, and as a consumer, I’m not an early adopter, I wait and see what’s going on. I feel like I’m being coerced into not being able to wait and see, and that I have to take the shot if I want this life-saving transplant.”

Fougner echoed her views, saying that she’s a “strong no on the vaccine, for sure,” CBS 4 reported.

“We’re talking about compromising my morals, for her right to have a surgery,” she said, according to CBS 4. “How can I sit here and allow them to murder my friend when I’ve got a perfectly good kidney and can save her life?”

The two women met in a bible study ten months ago and both were not under the impression that they needed a vaccine to conduct a transplant, CBS 4 reported.

Lutali received a letter from UCHealth saying that she had been taken off the donor list due to non-compliance with the new vaccine ruling, according to KDVR. “You will have 30 days to begin the vaccination series. If your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list,” the letter reportedly read. Upon completion of the vaccination series, Lutali would be reactivated on the kidney transplant list.

UCHealth said in the statement to KDVR that “patients who have received a transplanted organ are at significant risk from COVID-19” and that “a living donor could pass COVID-19 infection on to an organ recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, putting the patient’s life at risk.” (RELATED: Second-In-Command Bans Vaccine Mandates For Schools While Governor Leaves Idaho)

Facing stage 5 renal failure, Lutali and Fougner have looked into other hospitals in Colorado that would allow them to go through with the procedure while remaining unvaccinated, but to no avail, CBS 4 reported. The two women are now looking into other states to complete the procedure, according to the outlet.

Hospitals are not the only entities imposing vaccine policies, as major companies have also begun to mandate vaccines for their employees. On Sept. 9, Biden granted authorization to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a rule declaring that businesses with greater than 100 employees either required vaccination or to submit to weekly testing.