Senator Urges Donors to Help Unvaccinated Mother Receive Overseas Heart Transplant
A senator from Melbourne is calling on donors to assist a local mother in need of a heart transplant after she was denied one locally due to her COVID-19 vaccination status. Vicki Derderian, a mother of two, has been suffering from a heart condition for the past eight years and currently relies on a bi-ventricular assist device (BI-VAD) to pump blood through her body. Derderian had been seeking a heart transplant and was granted an exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.
However, specialists at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne have refused to list Derderian on the organ recipient list unless she receives the COVID-19 vaccine. This decision has been devastating for Derderian and her family, as it effectively means she is being denied the opportunity to save her own life. In response to this situation, Victorian Senator Ralph Babet has taken action to help Derderian by reaching out to the federal Health Minister Mark Butler and raising the issue in the Senate.
Senator Babet is determined to do everything in his power to support Derderian and give her a chance at survival. In the meantime, Derderian and her husband, John, have started a fundraising campaign to raise enough funds to travel overseas and find a transplant. This case highlights one of the unintended consequences of vaccine mandates during the pandemic, where unvaccinated individuals are facing difficulties accessing organ transplants.
This issue extends beyond Australia, as vaccine mandates have been implemented in many parts of the world. In late 2022, the Australian state of Queensland maintained a ban on unvaccinated patients from being eligible for kidney, lung, or heart transplants. According to Queensland Health, vaccination is crucial for transplant patients as they are highly immunosuppressed after the procedure, and prioritizing safety is of the utmost importance.
However, some argue that excluding unvaccinated patients from being considered for transplants goes against the principle of equity in medicine. Physician Lainie Friedman Ross at the University of Chicago suggests that penalizing or excluding patients based on their vaccination status may not be justified. She draws parallels to past debates surrounding alcoholics receiving liver transplants, emphasizing the need to consider individual choices and circumstances.
One of the arguments against unvaccinated patients receiving transplants is the concern of non-adherence, implying that they may not follow the necessary regimens associated with organ transplants. Additionally, there are worries that organs may be wasted if given to unvaccinated individuals who are at higher risk of complications. However, Ross points out that only 73 percent of healthcare workers in the US were vaccinated by September 2021, suggesting that many health professionals do not adhere to vaccination recommendations. She also notes that data indicates COVID-19 infection recovery rates are similar to the general population, highlighting that being unvaccinated does not automatically indicate non-adherence.
Overall, the case of Vicki Derderian brings attention to the complex ethical considerations surrounding vaccine mandates and access to organ transplants. While efforts are being made to save her life, the issue calls for a broader examination of medical equity and the impact of vaccination status on healthcare decisions.