Oregon Health & Science University denied a liver transplant for a 46-year-old mother of four because she is an undocumented immigrant.
Silvia Lesama-Santos, a who moved to Portland from Puebla, Mexico as a teenager, is in critical condition and suffering from liver failure. She received a letter from OHSU on Feb. 5 informing her that despite her health insurance coverage, she would not be eligible for a live-saving transplant because she lacks "lawful permanent residence or immigration documentation."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon publicized the rejection tonight and has started an online petition asking OHSU to reverse its denial.
"OHSU's policy of denying life-saving medical care based on immigration status is cruel and inhumane," says the group's legal director Mat dos Santos.
Lesama-Santos' children say they are upset and desperate to find treatment for their mother, who has lived in Portland for 30 years.
"My mother's only chance at survival is to receive a liver transplant, but OHSU has denied her because she is undocumented," her son, Ivan Gonzalez Lesama said in a statement. "They won't even let her get on the waiting list while we look for another hospital who will help her."
OHSU did not immediately return requests for comment.
UPDATE: Feb. 6, 11:21 p.m.: After questions about OHSU's decision to reject Lesama-Santos' liver transplant, the hospital reevaluated its policy to disqualify undocumented individuals from organ transplants for no other reason than their immigration status. A hospital spokesman says Lesama-Santos will be placed on a transplant waiting list if she meets the other requirements for the procedure.
Below is the hospital's full statement:
“It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an undocumented individual from being evaluated at OHSU. Upon learning of the policy, OHSU leaders acted immediately and terminated the policy. We deeply regret the pain this has caused the family. OHSU is committed to serving our entire community – all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values. The OHSU transplant team is informing the family of our change in policy tonight. OHSU’s legal team has begun a system-wide audit to ensure no other such policies exist.”