Mother sues DeVos Children’s Hospital over COVID-19 vaccine requirement for girl’s kidney transplant

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The mother of a teen who needs a kidney transplant is suing Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital over its policy that transplant patients be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The lawsuit asks a judge to issue permanent injunction barring 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 provide the girl with an exemption from vaccination requirements, based on religious beliefs, violates state and federal civil-rights laws.

“At Spectrum Health, the health and safety of our patients are of utmost 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 U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. She said her daughter, adopted last year from Ukraine, has stage-three chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. The girl had a kidney removed when she was younger and her other kidney is failing.

The lawsuit states doctors have determined that the girl, identified by initials, A.C., will need a kidney transplant. She has to undergo a series of evaluations before she can get on a waiting list.

Campau and her husband object to the required vaccinations – including influenza and human papillomavirus, or HPV – on religious grounds, attorneys Norman Pattis and Christopher DeMatteo, both of New Haven, Connecticut, and James Thomas of Grand Rapids, wrote in the lawsuit.

“Due to 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 human and cells or DNA. Additionally, they oppose, under the religious laws established in the Book of Leviticus, vaccines that contain products from various animals it lists as ‘unclean,’” the lawsuit states.

Related: Michigan’s Catholic bishops say 2 COVID-19 vaccines are OK morally but another is ‘problematic’

The lawsuit states multiple 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 that listed “refusal of childhood vaccinations as recommended by infectious diseases” as a reason why a child may not qualify for a transplant, the lawsuit states.

The pamphlet did not specify that vaccines for COVID-19, influenza and HPV were required, the lawsuit states.

Related: Patient denied heart transplant due to refusing COVID vaccine draws protesters, but doctors say such requirements are routine

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, American Society of Transplantation and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, “strongly” urged eligible children and adult transplant candidates be vaccinated for COVID-19.

It supported hospitals setting policies for pre-transplant vaccination.

“We believe that this is in the best interest of the transplant candidate, optimizing their chances of getting through the perioperative and post-transplant periods without severe COVID-19 disease, especially at 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 aborted decades ago in its production and manufacturing. Vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna do not use the cell line in the production and manufacturing of the vaccines but a cell line was used early on to confirm vaccine effectiveness.

A.C. has been treated at DeVos, where she undergoes dialysis, for nearly a year.

The United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages a waiting list under a federal-government contract, does not have vaccine requirements, the lawsuit said.

The nonprofit organizations says hospitals make such decisions.

“Those policies effectively require the Plaintiff to either violate her religious beliefs or deny her daughter life-saving medical care,” the lawsuit states.

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