Woman Denied Organ Transplant Because She Refuses to Get Vaccinated for ‘Religious Reasons’

CBS News

Leilani Lutali of Colorado recently found out her hospital is refusing to approve her of a kidney transplant surgery until she gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Lutali has stage 5 kidney disease and could die without a new kidney, but is refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons.

“As a Christian, I can’t support anything that has to do with abortion of babies, and the sanctity of life for me is precious,” she said, referring to how stem cells have played a role in the development of vaccines.

However, since transplant recipients are considered immunocompromised and are at high risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19, UCHealth requires them to be vaccinated. Additionally, it’s possible for an unvaccinated donor to pass COVID-19 to the recipient (even if they received a negative test beforehand).

“Studies have found transplant patients who contract COVID-19 may have a mortality rate of 20% or higher,” spokesman Dan Weaver said.

Many other vaccines are required before getting an organ transplant as well. The problem with organ transplant recipients is the vast amount of drugs they need to take to help suppress their immune system. This allows their body to be less likely to reject the new organ (which it normally would, since it would see it as a foreign object).

“Further, if patients were to wait to get their vaccine until after the surgery, it is unlikely that their immune system could mount the desired antibody reaction given that they are taking anti-rejection medications,” said Nancy Foster, the vice president for quality and patient safety policy at American Hospital Association.

However, Leutali’s argument is that getting COVID-19 is only something that may happen to her—it’s not a guarantee—whereas if she doesn’t get a kidney transplant, she will most likely die.

“I have hope that something will come along that is something I can live with in terms of my choices,” she said.

To hear more from Leutali herself, check out the video below. You’ll also hear from Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, who discusses the ethics behind these decisions to require vaccines for organ transplant recipients.

What do you think of this case? Do you think it’s fair to require the COVID-19 or do you think Leutali should be able to risk her life without being vaccinated? What do you think you’d do if you were in her position?