Briefly the story is this. Somebody needs a transplant, but she and her donor both refuse to be vaccinated. Because she refuses the vaccine, UCHealth (University of Colorado Health) are saying “Sorry, vaccine refusal means that we can’t do the transplant”.
That’s the brief elevator ride version. What I’m going to do now is to give you the longer version so that we can together mull over the details of what is going on here.
Who is the patient?
The transplant candidate is Leilani Lutali from Colorado. She tragically has stage 5 renal failure.
To place that diagnosis in context for you, the scale runs from 1 to 5. Stage 5 is as critical as it gets. It means that her Kidneys are at risk of failure or have already failed. If you don’t have a working kidney then you need regular dialysis treatments to cleanse your blood.
Side notes: The general policy in the UK, Australia, and the US is that the government picks up the cost of dialysis. It can be just temporary while you wait for a transplant. If however a transplant is not possible, then it is a permanent regular treatment.
She has a donor. Leilani met her friend Jaimee Fougner at a bible study. Jaimee has volunteered to be a donor. Here they both are ..
The issue here is this, UCHealth requires both donors and also transplant patients to be vaccinated for COVID. Both have steadfastly refused the vaccine. They are quoted as follows …
“It’s your choice on what treatment you have. In Leilani’s case, the choice has been taken from her. Her life has now been held hostage because of this mandate,” said Fougner.
Fougner says she hasn’t received the vaccine for religious reasons. Lutali hasn’t gotten the shot because she says there are too many unknowns. Until last week, neither woman thought they needed to be vaccinated for the transplant.
“At the end of August, they confirmed that there was no COVID shot needed at that time,” said Lutali. “Fast forward to Sept. 28. That’s when I found out. Jamie learned they have this policy around the COVID shot for both for the donor and the recipient.”
The following is the letter that Leilani received …
If you are wondering why UCHealth have done this, they do also explain it …
“For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%. This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries”
Key points that you should appreciate here
Transplant patients are given immune-suppressing drugs in order to maximise acceptance. That means that even very minor infections are a very big deal, hence the need to be prepared for it.
It is not just one COVID requirement. If you are going for a transplant then there will be many different requirements, for example vaccinations for other high-risk factors such as hepatitis B and even MMR. You also need to make appropriate lifestyle changes.
This is not pick and mix, you either go along with what they tell you or it is no deal.
This is also not just about UCHealth, Leilani and her friend looked around trying to find any facility that did not have a COVID vaccine requirement. Every single transplant facility in the state has exactly the same requirements.
Fougner, her friend, is quoted as saying …
“How can I sit here and allow them to murder my friend when I’ve got a perfectly good kidney and can save her life?”
Clearly they went to the media looking for sympathy, hence the story. The rather obvious flaw with her claim is that it is not “murder”, but rather is a choice. I should of course point out her dialysis will continue.
Why have they refused the Vaccine?
You can of course guess, but you don’t need to.
An Associated Press story goes into the detail. There we discover this …
Lutali, 56, said she could not agree to be vaccinated because of the role that fetal cell lines played in some vaccine development. Several types of cell lines created decades ago using fetal tissue are widely used in manufacturing or testing of medical products, though the cells used today are clones of the early cells, not the original tissue.
Permit me to lay out the actual facts here.
What is true is that there are cell lines that that were gathered over 50 years ago. These were used during testing. That is the reason some are using to justify their anti-vaccine stance.
The hypocrisy is seriously potent in all this.
The cells used today to test some, not all, of the COVID vaccines are many many generations away from the original. For those deeply concerned, the use of medication tested using this cell line is ethically not in any way enabling or participating in abortion. These same cell lines are used for the development of many different things ranging from cancer research all the way through to Tylenol. Many very familiar medications such as acetaminophen, albuterol, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft, all involved the use of this cell line for safety tests. I’d be willing to bet good money that those rejecting the COVID vaccine for “religious reasons” have absolutely no problem at all taking any of the others.
The Official Catholic Position
The religious group with the longest most well establish and hardest anti-abortion stance is the Catholic Church.
The Vatican’s doctrine office has very carefully reviewed the issue of COVID vaccines and the use of this cell line. Their full statement is found here. It is long and detailed. Permit me to distill it down for you. Their position is this – it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines that are based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses. Their thinking that gets them there is this bit from clause 3 …
…can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive
I’m not religious, so I personally tend not to pay too much attention to religious arguments. However, for those that are deeply concerned, then the official conclusion reached by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is indeed the way forward.
You can opt to have the vaccine with a clear religious conscience.
What about Leilani and Jaimee
They have been lied to and deceived by the micro-community of belief they live within.
Evangelicalism, one of the most privileged demographics in the US, is rather fond of presenting itself as “persecuted”. That’s not just a personal opinion, there is even a Wikipedia page dedicated to this delusion of persecution. What is perhaps inevitable is that the stance taken by UCHealth, and every other healthcare facility in the nation, will be polished up and then mounted within their “persecution” trophy case, and perhaps even delicately garnished with many secret prayers and hopes that Leilani will become a literal martyr for the cause.
Evangelical Anti-Abortion is a recent invention
What many might not appreciate is that the interest amongst evangelicals regarding Abortion is only a recent development. For most of the 1970s they had more or less zero interest and considered it to be a “Catholic Issue”. Would you believe that in 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling to legalize abortion. When the Roe legal decision became law, some evangelicals applauded it.
Why did it all change to what we have today?
It was all part of a political power grab. By the late 70s it because clear that Abortion was a topic that they could leverage to get a political movement rolling. In took until the early 80s, but they got there when the issue gained sufficient traction. It was all a bit of a con job in so many ways. This is because the actual origins of the religious right was motivated by the deep desire to defend racial segregation, the abortion stance gave them cover to do that.
We often forget just how different it once was amongst evangelicals not all that long ago. While a great deal has changed, it does demonstrate how rapidly things can change.
One could perhaps hope that Leilani and her friend would take the rather obvious sensible pro-life choice here and have the vaccine. I fear however that by going public they will now feel obliged to stick with their position.
When we as humans take a public stance, it becomes very very challenging to row that back. Sadly this is where they have now placed themselves.
The ultimate responsibility rests with those that injected the anti-abortion belief into the evangelical community, a group that was once, not too long ago, generally pro choice.