Boston hospital defends refusing heart transplant for patient who won’t get COVID-19 vaccine

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says it will not perform a heart transplant on a patient who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as is required.

The family of DJ Ferguson, a 31-year-old father of three, says he was at the top of the list to receive a heart transplant, but the hospital has deemed him ineligible due to his refusal to get vaccinated. DJ’s father, David, told CBS Boston that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is “kind of against” his son’s “basic principles — he doesn’t believe in it. It’s a policy they are enforcing and so, because he won’t get the shot, they took him off the list [for] a heart transplant.”

In a statement, Brigham and Women’s Hospital defended its policy, saying, “Like many other transplant programs in the United States, the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several vaccines and lifestyle behaviors required for transplant candidates in the Mass General Brigham system in order to create both the best chance for a successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation.”

After any kind of organ transplant, the patient’s immune system “is shut off,” Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS Boston. “The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving.”

David Ferguson said his son has received quality care at the hospital, but the family is exploring moving him to another facility. “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 told CBS Boston. “It’s his body. It’s his choice.”