A three-year-old boy from Cyprus suffering from serious heart disease was refused surgery by hospitals from three countries due to the parents being unvaccinated against COVID-19. The incident has raised questions on the ethical dimensions of vaccination.
The boy was initially supposed to undergo surgery in Cyprus, a small island country in the east Mediterranean Sea. However, as hospitals could not perform the surgery, the country’s health ministry arranged for him to be taken to Germany.
But just a day prior to the transfer, the German hospital informed that they are canceling the surgery since the boy’s parents have not been vaccinated. Though authorities in Cypriot suggested that the child could be accompanied by a legal guardian, the hospital refused.
Cypriot authorities then contacted hospitals in Israel and the UK. But they too refused to operate on the boy. After much effort, a hospital in Athens agreed to conduct the surgery.
A health ministry official from Germany later stated that the country has imposed no rule which blocks hospitals from treating unvaccinated people or relatives of such individuals. However, each hospital will have its own rules, the official stated. A spokesperson from the European Commission’s health department insisted that health policies are the responsibility of the member states and that the organization has no role in these matters.
“I know that unvaccinated patients are admitted to hospitals in Germany… I didn’t know that I had to be vaccinated for my child being to be operated on in that hospital. If I knew it of course I would have done it … I am healthy and did not want to be vaccinated. I find it inappropriate for someone who is healthy to be vaccinated,” the boy’s father said in a statement.
The parents have now received COVID-19 vaccinations. Cypriot authorities had asked the parents to take a J&J vaccine. However, the parents ended up taking a Pfizer vaccine on the advice of a German hospital.
Barred from receiving medical service
Meanwhile, another incident of a hospital refusing to treat a patient due to COVID-19 has come to light, this time in the United States. 31-year-old DJ Ferguson is in dire need of a heart transplant. However, the hospital that was supposed to have conducted the transplant surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, took Ferguson off the surgery list after it came to light that he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The hospital requires “the Covid-19 vaccine, and lifestyle behaviors for transplant candidates to create both the best chance for a successful operation and to optimize the patient’s survival after transplantation, given that their immune system is drastically suppressed,” a hospital spokesperson said in a statement.
Ferguson’s father David insisted that COVID-19 vaccine goes against his son’s “basic principles” because he does not believe in it. Ferguson has been in hospital since the Thanksgiving weekend. His hereditary heart issue results in the lungs getting filled with blood and fluids.
In an interview with CBS, Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, claimed that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is critical before performing such surgeries, despite the almost non-existent possibility of a healthy young person or child dying from the disease.
“Post any transplant, kidney, heart whatever, your immune system is shut off… The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving,” Caplan said.