Feb. 8, 2012 — -- A dying California dad who was denied a kidney transplant because of his undocumented immigration status has been given a second chance at life.
University of California-San Francisco has agreed to operate on Jesus Navarro, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
UCSF had originally denied surgery to Navarro in May after doctors found out he was in the country illegally, saying he couldn't provide adequate aftercare.
"UCSF was following its policy to make sure Mr. Navarro would continue to have the health insurance necessary to receive proper post-transplant follow up," the hospital said in a joint statement from UCSF's chief medical officer, Dr. Josh Adler, and Navarro today.
"Follow-up care is critical to transplant patients, who otherwise may lose the organ and become less healthy than they were on dialysis," the statement added. "UCSF regrets the misunderstanding and is committed to reviewing its processes to make sure that communication is consistent and clear with all patients, including Mr. Navarro. UCSF does not and will not discriminate on the basis of immigration status."
The decision came following a petition on Change.org that accumulated 130,000 signatures in support of Navarro's case.
The petition was started by Donald Kagan, a kidney transplant recipient whose kidney was donated by a Nicaraguan immigrant.
"Immigration status should never be a death sentence," Kagan said in a news release.
Change.org said within days of the campaign launch Kagan had accumulated 130,000 supporters. He then went to UCSF Kidney Transplant Center with the petition, asking doctors to reconsider their decision.
"I am incredibly relieved that UCSF will give Jesus the kidney he needs to survive," said Kagan.
While supporters are thrilled at the recent decision, some immigration reform advocates say legal residents should be given preference when it comes to receiving an organ.
"Our view is that it is responsible to give preference to people in similar circumstances if they're citizens and legal resident of the United States," said Ira Mehlam, the national media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "This was a unique case, because he was getting a kidney directly from his wife."
Navarro, who has private health insurance, had reached the top of the donor list when doctors told him they couldn't operate. He is now expected to be at the top of the list again within three to six months.
"The success that Donald Kagan achieved in just a few days in his campaign to save a father's life demonstrates the power that each and every one of us have to make a difference," said Jackie Mahendra, director of organizing at Change.org.