Teen's 'Lifesaving' Transplant Hinges on Parents' Vax Stance

They argue hospital vaccination requirement violates their religious beliefs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2022 9:10 AM CDT
Teen's 'Lifesaving' Transplant Hinges on Parents' Vax Stance
The Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is shown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Sept. 2, 2015.   (Wikimedia/WMrapids)

(Newser) – Parents of a Michigan teen are asking a judge to overturn a hospital's requirement that their daughter be vaccinated against COVID-19 before receiving a "lifesaving" kidney transplant. The 17-year-old girl known by her initials "AC," has only one kidney, stage-three chronic kidney disease, and end-stage renal disease, per MLive. She's been undergoing dialysis at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids since she was adopted from Ukraine last year. But she's not eligible for a transplant because recipients must be vaccinated against infectious diseases—including COVID-19, influenza, and human papillomavirus—and her parents say that violates their religious beliefs.

Many hospitals have such a requirement, which has come under scrutiny during the pandemic. Several patients across the country said they faced death because they didn't want to be vaccinated. But experts say a transplant recipient must take anti-rejection medications that weaken their immune systems, putting them at increased risk for severe illness or death with COVID-19. "Some kinds of risks are too likely and too serious for a physician to cooperate with," Leonard Fleck, a bioethicist and professor at Michigan State University, tells Detroit News. As organs for transplants are hard to come by, doctors "want kidneys to go to individuals who have good prospects for seven- to 10-year survival."

That argument doesn't sway mother Jenna Campau. The hospital's policies "effectively require the Plaintiff to either violate her religious beliefs or deny her daughter lifesaving medical care," according to the lawsuit backed by We The Patriots, USA. It notes Campau and her husband object to "any vaccine or medical product that is produced or researched using aborted fetal cells" or contains products from animals listed as "unclean" in the Bible's Book of Leviticus. As the Detroit News points out, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was developed using "cell cultures derived from fetal cells that came from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s," and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using those cultures. (Read more anti-vaccination stories.)

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