Undocumented Portland mother too sick for new liver, despite OHSU policy change

Silvia Lesama-Santos center, courtesy ACLU of Oregon

An undocumented mother in need of a liver transplant has been reconsidered for the procedure after the Oregon Health & Sciences University originally denied her request for care.

In a release Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon wrote Silvia Lesama-Santos was denied a liver transplant due to her undocumented status.

Lesama-Santos is a 46-year-old stay-at-home mother of four and has lived in the Portland area for three decades, according to the ACLU.

She has health insurance through her husband’s employer.

Lesama-Santos received a letter Monday from OHSU, which explained she did not meet the requirements for transplant evaluation since she does not have “lawful presence.”

Due to Lesama-Santos not having proof of legal residency, OHSU rejected her inquiry on transplant services.

In ACLU’s release Tuesday, Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa Oregon, a statewide immigrant rights advocacy group, was quoted saying she was shocked to learn of the care rejection.

“Denying Silvia a transplant based on her immigration status is effectively a death sentence,” Williams said. “Our hearts are breaking for Silvia and her family. We hope there is still time for OHSU to change their decision.”

On the same day as the ACLU’s release, OSHU reversed its policy as a direct result of Lesama-Santos’ rejection.

LIVE: We just heard from @OHSUNews is changing the policy barring undocumented people from getting transplants. https://t.co/8AO94Fvuqf— ACLU of Oregon (@ACLU_OR) February 7, 2018

OHSU released the following statement: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.

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.According to a GoFundMe page set up by Lesama-Santos’ family, she will start the transplant process Wednesday.

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