The White House-endorsed national push to get vaccinated against COVID-19 could prove to have fatal implications for a Colorado Springs woman who is waiting on a life-saving kidney transplant after she was taken off the transplant list because she is unvaccinated.
The woman, Leilani Lutali, reportedly has stage five kidney disease and is in desperate need of a transplant, but she received a letter from UCHealth Transplant Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus informing her that she was being designated “inactive” on the waiting list and had 30 days to begin the vaccination process. If she refused, she would be removed from the list.
“The transplant team at University of Colorado Hospital has determined that it is necessary to place you inactive on the waiting list. You will be inactivated on the list for non-compliance by not receiving the COVID vaccine. 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 stated. “You will continue to accrue waiting time, but you will not receive a kidney offer while listed inactive. Once you complete the COVID vaccination series you will be reactivated on the kidney transplant list pending any other changes in your health condition.”
Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner said in a Facebook Live video that he spoke with UCHealth directly and “they refused to make accommodations or exceptions to their policy.”
The Republican lawmaker explained that the woman has 12% of her kidney function left and has found a potential donor — who’s also not vaccinated — but is being denied the life-saving surgery until she gets vaccinated, even though she has tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and has natural immunity.
“Still, UCHealth is refusing to render this type of care, this type of life-saving care,” Geitner said. “And that is incredibly frustrating and incredibly sad, and incredibly disgusting that UCHealth would make this type of decision and impact an individual in such a dramatic and profound way.”
— Tim Geitner (@tgeitner) October 5, 2021
Geitner tagged Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who declared that only “a selfish bastard” would refuse to wear a mask and has said in reference to those who do not follow coronavirus precautions that he supported actions “to go after some of the very few bad actors with fines.”
“I feel coerced. I feel like my life is being held in their hands in exchange for a shot, and the attitude is just take the shot,” Lutali told KOAA.
“I said I’ll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong,” she also said, according to CBS Denver. “It’s surgery, it’s invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I’m not sure why I can’t sign a waiver for the COVID shot.”
(Source: CBS4 Colorado)
In its defense, UCHealth released a statement that centered on the long-term care of organ transplants.
“An organ transplant is a unique surgery that leads to a lifetime of specialized management to ensure an organ is not rejected, which can lead to serious complications, the need for a subsequent transplant surgery, or even death. Physicians must consider the short- and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant.”
The statement said transplant centers have “specific requirements in place to protect patients both during and after surgery,” noting that patients may be required to receive vaccinations against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella, and may be required to give up alcohol and stop smoking, among other things, to help avoid rejection.
“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 the statement, adding, “Patients who have received a transplanted organ are at significant risk from COVID-19. Should they become infected, they are at particularly high risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. Studies have found transplant patients who contract COVID-19 may have a mortality rate of 20% or higher. 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.”
The reaction to the story covers the gamut, from those who denounce the decision to those who insist it’s only common sense — here’s a sampling of responses from all sides from Twitter:
The unvaxxed have officially been reduced to second-class citizens.
Segregation has returned to America under the guise of “public health”
— The Phantom Nationalist (@JohnMar31610178) October 6, 2021
Yes, those with the best chance of long-term survival always get first priority for transplants. It’s standard ethical practice, and an immunocompromised patient is at very high risk of severe outcomes or death with COVID-19. Non-vaccination is therefore a valid exclusion.
— Trish Zornio (@trish_zornio) October 5, 2021
So we should deny all smokers oxygen when their COPD kicks in by your logic. Smh.
— Mayhem1965 (@BrianMayhem1965) October 6, 2021
And if this patient dies and is registered as an organ donor, they will take their healthy organs and transplant them in others.
If I were an organ donor and received this letter, I would remove myself from the donor registry and then get busy finding someone to help me heal.
— Jenny (@JennyDH12) October 6, 2021
Certainly hope so. They are putting others at severe risk by their refusal to get vaccinated—including those who would be treating them. Why should society pay the price?
— Bruce Schoenfeld (@bruceschoenfeld) October 5, 2021
Tired: “Health care is a human right!”
Wired: “The Hippocratic Oath is so 5 minutes ago!” https://t.co/GyigBQZM54
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 6, 2021
So medical Doctors are now willing to let people die if they refuse get a covid vaccine? https://t.co/Y2PPpl920h
— Mr T 2 (@GovtsTheProblem) October 5, 2021
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