Hospital officials in Oregon have ended a policy that prevented an undocumented woman from getting a liver transplant because of her immigration status after outcry, according to local news reports.
Silvia Lesama-Santos, 46, a mother of four who has lived in the country for at least 30 years, was denied the transplant in a letter Tuesday from transplant program at the Oregon Health and Science University, a public school dedicated to health-related sciences.
“You tell us that [you] do not have documentation of lawful presence or immigration documentation,” the school’s Transplant Services department wrote her in a Feb. 5 letter posted online Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “OHSU requires proof of lawful presence for transplant services.”
The ACLU of Oregon had been involved in advocating for Lesama-Santos and publicizing the denial of care for her, which its director, Mat dos Santos, called “cruel and inhumane.”
“My mother’s only chance at survival is to receive a liver transplant, but OHSU has denied her because she is undocumented,” Lesama-Santos's son Ivan Gonzalez Lesama said in an ACLU release. “They won’t even let her get on the waiting list while we look for another hospital who will help her.”
The OHSU announced a change to its policy almost immediately after the outcry, the Oregonian reported.
“It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an undocumented individual from being evaluated at OHSU,” the school said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Upon learning of the policy, OHSU leaders acted immediately and terminated the policy. We deeply regret the pain this has caused the family. OHSU is committed to serving our entire community — all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values.”
Lesama-Santos and her family were told of the change in policy, though by then she had also been accepted to a hospital in Seattle, the Oregonian reported. An ACLU spokeswoman told the newspaper that it was unclear if she was healthy enough to travel to Seattle or even get the transplant in Oregon at this point.
The ACLU said it planned to ask other hospitals to change similar policies.
Correction Feb. 8: An earlier version of this story included a headline that mistakenly said the hospital denied the woman a new kidney. The woman was refused a liver, not kidney transplant.