GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The mother of a teenager in need of a kidney transplant is suing Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for its policy of vaccinating transplant patients against COVID-19.
The lawsuit asks a judge to issue a permanent ban preventing Spectrum Health from requiring the girl, 17, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – and other vaccinations – before she is evaluated for a kidney transplant.
The lawsuit also seeks a declaratory ruling that the hospital’s refusal to grant the girl an exemption from vaccination claims, based on religious beliefs, violates state and federal civil rights laws.
“At Spectrum Health, the health and safety of our patients is a major concern. Due to patient privacy concerns, we are unable to discuss specific patient situations,” Spectrum Health said in a statement to MLive / The Grand Rapids Press.
Jenna Campau of Fennville filed the lawsuit Friday, May 13, in the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. She said her daughter, adopted last year from Ukraine, has chronic stage III kidney disease and end stage kidney disease. The girl had one kidney removed when she was younger and her other kidney fails.
The lawsuit states that doctors have determined that the girl, identified with initials, AC, must have a kidney transplant. She has to go through a series of evaluations before she can get on the waiting list.
Campau and her husband are protesting against the required vaccinations – including flu and human papillomavirus or HPV – for religious reasons, wrote lawyers Norman Pattis and Christopher DeMatteo, both from New Haven, Connecticut, and James Thomas from Grand Rapids in the trial.
“Because of their religious beliefs, they are opposed to any vaccine or other medical product that is produced or researched using aborted fetal cells and also genetic modifications or therapies that involve combing humans and cells or DNA. In addition, they are against , according to the religious laws established in Leviticus, vaccines containing products from various animals, which it describes as ‘unclean’, ”the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says several doctors have been told about Campau’s objections and that the transplant team would meet with the hospital’s ethics department.
Earlier this month, the hospital provided Campau with a pamphlet citing “rejection of pediatric vaccinations as recommended by infectious diseases” as a reason why a child may not be eligible for a transplant, the lawsuit states.
The pamphlet did not specify that vaccines against COVID-19, influenza and HPV were required, the lawsuit states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said COVID-19 vaccines do not affect DNA.
In a mid-March statement, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the American Society of Transplantation and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation called on “highly” qualified child and adult transplant candidates to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
It supported hospitals in establishing pre-transplant vaccination policies.
“We believe this is in the best interests of the transplant candidate and optimize their chances of getting through the perioperative and post-transplant periods without severe COVID-19 disease, especially in times of greater infection prevalence,” the statement reads.
The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services said COVID-19 vaccines do not contain fetal cells, but Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses a fetal “cell line” from two fetuses that were aborted decades ago in its production and manufacture. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna do not use the cell line in the production and manufacture of the vaccines, but a cell line was used early to confirm the effectiveness of the vaccine.
AC has been treated at DeVos, where she is undergoing dialysis, for almost a year.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, which administers a waiting list under a federal government contract, has no vaccine requirements, the lawsuit states.
Nonprofits say hospitals make such decisions.
“These policies actually require the plaintiff to either violate his religious beliefs or deny his daughter life-saving medical care,” the lawsuit states.