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February 6, 2018

Mother of four in critical condition; family begs hospital to change policy

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Liver Transplant program at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) denied Silvia Lesama-Santos, 46, a desperately-needed liver transplant because she is an undocumented immigrant. Lesama-Santos, a stay-at-home mother of four children (ages four, 13, 15, and 21,) has lived in the Portland area for 30 years. Yesterday, OHSU sent the family a letter denying care.

“My mother’s only chance at survival is to receive a liver transplant, but OHSU has denied her because she is undocumented,” said her son, Ivan Gonzalez Lesama. “They won’t even let her get on the waiting list while we look for another hospital who will help her.”

Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa Oregon, a statewide immigrant rights advocacy group, said she was shocked to learn of OHSU’s organ transplant policy.

“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.”

Mat dos Santos, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon), said he believed that medical institutions have an ethical obligation to treat people fairly.

“OHSU’s policy of denying life-saving medical care based on immigration status is cruel and inhumane,” dos Santos said. “OHSU should treat all people fairly, but Silvia’s story shows that is not what is happening. We are looking into whether OHSU’s denial violates federal or state laws, but there is no question that OHSU’s policy goes against the spirit of equal protection. Regardless, OHSU should be ashamed that they have not joined the other hospitals around the country who have addressed this question by changing their policy so it does not discriminate against undocumented people."

The family has set up a fund for medical expenses at

The ACLU of Oregon has set up a petition asking OHSU to change their policy of denying care to people based on their immigration status at