After getting pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Oregon Health and Science University relented in its policy and will grant a transplant to a woman who could not provide legal proof of residence in the United States. Silvia Lesama-Santos, 46, received letter on February 6 that advised her that a transplant “requires proof of lawful presence for transplant services.” 

The ACLU got a petition drive going after Lesama-Santos received the letter. The progressive ACLU called the OHSU policy “cruel and inhumane,” tweeting “TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the petition asking all Oregon hospitals to stop denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.” Andrea Williams of Causa Oregon, a pro-immigration group, was quoted by the ACLU as saying, “Denying Silvia a transplant based on her immigration status is effectively a death sentence.”

Sylvia Lesama-Santos is married and has four children. She has lived in the Portland, Oregon, area for a reported three decades and has health insurance through her husband’s employer. 

Soon, OSHU issued a statement: “It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an individual with undocumented status from being evaluated at OHSU. Upon learning of the policy, OHSU leaders acted immediately and terminated the policy. We deeply regret the pain this has caused the family.” OSHU added in its statement, “OHSU is committed to serving our entire community — all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values.” Promising to let Lesama-Santos know of the policy change, OHSU went on to declare, “OHSU’s legal team has begun a system-wide audit to ensure no other such policies exist.”

Lesama-Santos has been accepted to a hospital in Seattle. Her family is asking for donations on GoFundMe. 

After declaring victory in the case of Lesama-Santos, the ACLU is petitioning for a policy change at all Oregon hospitals. The petition asks all Oregon hospitals to “change any policies denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.” It goes on to say, “Everyone deserves to have access to life-saving medical care. It is inhumane and cruel to deny care to undocumented members of our community. This is an unfair practice that goes against our values as Oregonians. We expect all of Oregon's medical institutions to treat all people in need of life-saving care fairly and with dignity and compassion.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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