Kidney Transplant Denied to Insured Man Because of Immigration Status

Immigration status means dialysis patient can't get kidney transplant.

Jesus Navarro has a donor and he has medical insurance -- everything the Oakland man needs for the kidney transplant that will save his life.

Problem is, Navarro, 35, is an illegal immigrant. So despite working for 14 years at a steel foundry in Berkeley and his private insurance, doctors at UC San Francisco Medical Center are refusing to perform the operation, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Immigration debates put hospitals into an "ethical gray area... which they hate," the newspaper reported. Many hospitals across the country have been criticized for refusing to perform operations because of a concern over future ability to pay for care, and others have been lambasted for performing multiple organ transplants on patients here illegally. Then there's the whole "do no harm" principle.

Navarro continued to work full-time at Pacific Steel in Berkeley despite eight years of kidney failure, using dialysis. Dialysis patients have a life expectancy of six years, the newspaper reported.

Navarro reached the top of the transplant list last year, but was nixed when hospital officials found out his immigration status. His wife then offered her own kidney, but officials again said no.

So now he's stuck in an odd limbo. His private insurance will continue despite losing his foundry job in an immigration audit last month. But if he ends up in Medi-Cal, he is in serious trouble: Medi-Cal will not pay for immunosuppressive drugs to ward off organ rejection.

Navarro is currently looking for a job, he told the newspaper. As for the new kidney he will eventually need, that's in his wife. He just needs to find someone willing to do the operation -- or he'll die.

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