From the archives …
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By Michael Winter,
Because a 35-year-old father is not in the country legally, a San Francisco hospital is refusing to perform a life-saving kidney transplant, the Contra Costa Times reports in an article highlighting a clash between immigration law and medical ethics.
Administrators at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center won’t transplant a kidney from Jesus Navarro’s wife because they said there is “no guarantee he will receive adequate follow-up care, given his uncertain status, the paper writes.
Navarro, who lives in Oakland with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter, “was caught up in an immigration audit” and last month lost his job at a steel foundry after
14 years, the paper writes. He still has private insurance to pay for the transplant.
Navarro’s kidneys began shutting down eight years ago, and he uses a home dialysis machine every night. Doctors now say that without a transplant he will die.
UCSF, one of the top kidney transplant centers, would not comment on Navarro’s case, but the head of transplantation issued a statement saying all patients are evaluated for what the paper calls “socioeconomic stability.”
“UCSF’s policy for financial clearance requires candidates to present evidence of adequate and stable insurance coverage or other financial sources necessary to sustain follow-up care long after transplant surgery,” said Reece Fawley, executive director of transplantation. “Immigration status is among many factors taken into consideration.”
The CoCo Times writes, “Though no data are available, anecdotal evidence suggests clinics sometimes perform organ transplants on illegal immigrants, especially when the patients are young.” A bioethicist said Navarro’s case is a difficult gray area for hospitals.”It puts the doctors in a very awkward and torn position,” said Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania. “You come into this trying to do good and find yourself stuck in the middle of a fight about immigration.”