Michigan hospital rejects woman's heart transplant, recommends she raise $10K

After rejecting a 60-year-old woman's request for a heart transplant for lack of "a more secure financial plan," Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health recommended that she start a $10,000 fundraiser to come up with the money, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

The recommendation came via a Nov. 20 letter from a nurse with Spectrum Health's Heart & Lung Specialized Care Clinics. In the letter, the nurse told Hedda Martin of Grand Rapids that the multidisciplinary heart transplant committee determined she is "not a candidate at this time for a heart transplant due to needing more secure financial plan for immunosuppresive medication coverage."

Immunosuppresive drugs help prevent a person's body from rejecting a new heart or other transplanted organ. The nurse also told Ms. Martin the transplant committee "is recommending a fundraising effort of $10,000."

The letter was reportedly posted on social media by the patient, sparking backlash from some commentators over the committee's decision. According to the report, some commentators on Twitter compared the committee to a "death panel."

A Spectrum representative was not available to speak with Detroit Free Press on Nov. 25.

The health system posted a statement on its website stating that Spectrum does not comment on specific patient situations due to privacy, but it "cares deeply about every patient that enters its doors."

"While it is always upsetting when we cannot provide a transplant, we have an obligation to ensure that transplants are successful and that donor organs will remain viable. We thoughtfully review candidates for heart and lung transplant procedures with care and compassion, and these are often highly complex, difficult decisions," Spectrum said.

"While our primary focus is the medical needs of the patient, the fact is that transplants require lifelong care and immunosuppression drugs, and therefore costs are sometimes a regrettable and unavoidable factor in the decision-making process. We partner with our patients throughout their care and work closely with them to identify opportunities for financial assistance. Our clinical team has an ongoing dialogue with patients about their eligibility, holding frequent in-person meetings and inform patients in-person to ensure they fully understand their specific situation," the health system added.

As of Nov. 26, a GoFundMe page set up by Ms. Martin's son had raised $15,675 for the anti-rejection drugs. 

Access the full Detroit Free Press report here.


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