ACLU Forces Hospital to Add Illegal to Liver List... While 115,000 Still Waiting


What would we do without the American Civil Liberties Union?

Well, we’d probably have high school football teams whose players could pray whenever they darned well pleased, an immigration debate that didn’t descend even further into name-calling and race-baiting, and towns that could put up Christmas displays without fear of legal reprisal. In other words, it would be kind of like the opposite of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence would still be waiting on his pair of celestially-issued wings had George Bailey been an ACLU attorney.

Say what you will about those outrages, none of them have directly cost Americans their lives. Now, the ACLU can likely add that to its list of “accomplishments,” all due to its insistence that a hospital change its policies to allow illegal immigrants to be eligible for liver transplants.

According to KPTV-TV, Silvia Lesama-Santos was denied placement on the Oregon Health & Sciences University’s organ transplant list because she does not have “lawful presence” in the country.

While she is on her husband’s health insurance, the hospital’s policies stipulate that a transplant recipient must be a legal resident of the United States.

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An ACLU news release on Tuesday called those policies “inhumane.”

“Denying Silvia a transplant based on her immigration status is effectively a death sentence,” Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa Oregon, said in a statement.

“Our hearts are breaking for Silvia and her family. We hope there is still time for OHSU to change their decision.”

So naturally, this being Oregon, the hospital caved like a pillow fort.

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“It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an undocumented individual 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,” the hospital 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.

“The OHSU transplant team is informing the family of our change in policy… OHSU’s legal team has begun a system-wide audit to ensure no other such policies exist.”

Silvia Lesama-Santos’ situation was a tragic one. Unfortunately, in the world of organ transplants, tragic decisions are made every day — whom to give an organ to, and whom to move down the list or deny a transplant.

This is not a world where spare livers abound like lollipops. If one person who does not fit the previous criteria makes it on the list, that means someone else is bumped off. Silvia Lesama-Santos’ tragedy becomes someone else’s tragedy. Her death sentence will be passed on to someone else.

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And while we don’t know whether that other person is good or bad, we do know this: Silvia Lesama-Santos did something wrong. She remained in this country illegally. That’s a perfectly legitimate criteria to deny someone a space on an organ transplant list except in exceptionally compelling circumstances. Not only does it disadvantage those who are legally in this country in a matter of life or death, it also creates the distinct possibility of a slippery slope.

Sadly, the ACLU isn’t content to end this there. Its activists have started a petition (because of course they have) to force every hospital in Oregon to remove immigration status from the criteria for organ transplants.

“We, the undersigned, ask you to immediately change any policy that denies patients access to organ transplants based on their immigration status,” the petition reads.

“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.”

But that’s the problem. In one of the few situations where health care necessarily needs to be rationed due to scarcity, this will deny “access to life-saving medical care” to Oregonians who have obeyed the law and who are in this country legally. It puts them in the same pool as individuals who have committed a crime; they’re possibly going to be denied life-saving care because of people who came to this country illegally, possibly simply to get on an organ donor list.

And this is in a country where 20 people die a day waiting for an organ transplant, with 115,000 still waiting.

I have nothing but sympathy for Silvia Lesama-Santos. If she gets her liver, however, I have just as much sympathy for the person who got passed over — the person who obeyed the law of the land. They, apparently, don’t matter. Their family doesn’t matter. Their hopes and dreams don’t matter.

And it’s all because that nameless individual doesn’t have a political cause the ACLU can attach their name to.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture