Leilani Lutali, foreground, and her friend Jaimee Fougner pose for a photo Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — When a Colorado woman found out her hospital wouldn’t approve her kidney transplant surgery until she got the COVID-19 vaccine, she was left with a difficult decision pitting her health needs against her religious beliefs.
Leilani Lutali, a born-again Christian, went with her faith.
Even though she has stage 5 kidney disease that puts her at risk of dying without a new kidney, Lutali, 56, said she could not agree to be vaccinated because of the role that stem cells have played in the development of vaccines.
“As a Christian, I can’t support anything that has to do with abortion of babies, and the sanctity of life for me is precious,” she said.
UCHealth requires transplant recipients to be vaccinated because recipients are at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as being hospitalized and dying from the virus, spokesman Dan Weaver said. Unvaccinated donors could also pass COVID-19 to the recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, he said.
“Studies have found transplant patients who contract COVID-19 may have a mortality rate of 20% or higher,” he said.
It’s not clear how common this type of policy is.
Leilani Lutali wears a cross around her neck at her home in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The American Hospital Association, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems and networks in the United States, said it did not have data to share on the issue. But it said many transplant programs insist that patients get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of the weakened state of their immune system.