OHSU says archaic policy led to transplant denial for woman not in U.S. legally

Silvia Lesama-Santos and children. (Family Photo)

Oregon Health & Science University said it has gotten rid of an archaic organ transplant policy after it was used to deny a liver transplant to a woman not in the country legally.

The ACLU of Oregon started a petition to get the hospital to change its policy after it said the hospital sent a letter to 46-year-old Silvia Lesama-Santos, a mother of four children, denying her the lifesaving transplant.

“Denying Silvia a transplant based on her immigration status is effectively a death sentence,” Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa Oregon, said in an ACLU news release. “Our hearts are breaking for Silvia and her family. We hope there is still time for OHSU to change their decision.”

The ACLU says Lesama-Santos, her husband and their four children were devastated by the news.

"Honestly heartbroken that a hospital, even if they get their money's worth or whatever it's going to be, they still say, 'No,' because she's not a citizen," said Ivan Gonzalez Lasama, Lesama-Santos' son.

The ACLU said OHSU is the closest hospital that would be able to do the transplant. They believe the next closes hospital capable of the surgery is in Washington.

OHSU said once its leaders were made aware the hospital had such a policy, they immediately terminated it.

“We deeply regret the pain this has caused the family,” OHSU said in a statement. “OHSU is committed to serving our entire community -- all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values.”

OHSU said they were informing the family of the change.

It said its legal team is conducting an audit to make sure there are no other similar policies.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with medical expenses.

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