A Colorado woman says she was told she couldn't get a life-saving kidney transplant unless she got vaccinated
- Leilani Lytali is suffering from stage five renal failure.
- She said she was told she couldn't get a kidney transplant because she's not vaccinated against COVID-19.
- UCHealth recently implemented the vaccination policy to protect the health of its patients.
A woman who is suffering from stage five renal failure was told she couldn't receive a life-saving kidney transplant unless she got a vaccinated against COVID-19, CBS Denver reported.
Colorado's healthcare system, UCHealth, sent Leilani Lutali a letter on September 28 explaining that she and her donor, Jaimee Fougner, had 30 days to begin the vaccine process and that if they refused the shots, they would be removed from the kidney transplant list.
"The transplant team at University of Colorado Hospital has determined that it is necessary to place you inactive on the waiting list," the letter said. "You will be inactivated on the list for non-compliance by not receiving the COVID vaccine. You will have 30 days to being the vaccination series. If your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list."
The letter added that Lutali would be able to get back on the transplant list once she was fully vaccinated.
Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner, a Republican, tweeted a picture of Lutali's letter on Tuesday, calling the decision "disgusting."
-Tim Geitner (@tgeitner) October 5, 2021
Lutali told CBS Denver: "At the end of August, they confirmed that there was no COVID shot needed at that time ... Fast forward to September 28. That's when I found out."
Both women are not vaccinated. Lutali told CBS Denver she hadn't been vaccinated, saying there were too many unknowns given her illness, while Fougner cited religious reasons.
"I said I'll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong," Lutali said, per CBS Denver. "It's surgery, it's invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I'm not sure why I can't sign a waiver for the COVID shot."
Both Lutani and Fougner are now trying to find a hospital in Colorado that will do the transplant while they're both unvaccinated, but so far been unsuccessful, CBS Denver reported.
In a statement to Insider, UCHealth said it cannot share or confirm any info about specific patients because of federal patient privacy laws. It recently implemented a new policy that requires nearly all of its transplant recipients and organ donors to get a COVID-19 vaccination before surgery.
"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," UCHealth told Insider.
A UCHealth spokesperson told The Washington Post that other transplant centers in the US were moving toward similar policies. UCHealth did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
More than 100,000 people are currently on the transplant waiting list, and only a fraction of those seeking a kidney received one last year, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
An estimated 17 people die every day waiting for an organ, according to the American Transplant Foundation.
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