An Oregon hospital contacted an illegal immigrant on Tuesday and told her she could not be on the liver transplant list. The hospital stated it “requires proof of lawful presence for transplant services.” Now the hospital has done an about-face after the ACLU and others applied public pressure.
The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Mat dos Santos, responded to the woman’s receipt of the letter from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) by calling the policy “cruel and inhumane.”
The ACLU in Oregon started a petition drive, Tweeting, “TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the petition asking all Oregon hospitals to stop denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.”
— ACLU of Oregon (@ACLU_OR) February 8, 2018
The Fox News affiliate in Oregon reported that 46-year-old Sylvia Lesama-Santos was in need of a transplant. The mother of four has lived in the Portland area for three decades and has health insurance through her husband’s employer. She was rejected for treatment because she did not have proof of legal residency.
Andrea Williams, the executive director of an immigrant rights organization (Causa Oregon), was quoted in the ACLU’s press release as saying, “Denying Silvia a transplant based on her immigration status is effectively a death sentence.”
The ACLU and others starting using the hashtag #SaveSilvia on Twitter.
The Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (OSHU) quickly issued a statement saying:
It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an individual with undocumented status 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.
The university hospital added, “OHSU is committed to serving our entire community — all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values.”
They promised that the OHSU transplant team would inform the family of the change in policy tonight. Moreover, they stated, “OHSU’s legal team has begun a system-wide audit to ensure no other such policies exist.”
A spokesperson for the ACLU, Sarah Armstrong, was reported to say on Wednesday that Lesama-Santos has been accepted to a hospital in Seattle.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe page.
Not stopping there, the Oregon ACLU is now pushing a petition drive “to [ask] all Oregon hospitals to change any policies denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.”