Take the jab or the boy gets it. That’s essentially the message the Cleveland Clinic is sending to the parents of 9-year-old Tanner Donaldson, who will soon need a kidney transplant. He was born with a rare birth defect, posterior urethral valves (PUV), a condition that caused irreversible kidney damage in utero and resulted in stage 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Dane Donaldson, Tanner’s father, told PJ Media that his son’s kidney function is currently between 15-20%, but his numbers have been ticking up lately, so they feel he is nearing the time when a transplant will be necessary. They’ve known since birth that Tanner would eventually need the transplant and doctors have told the parents that they’ll continue monitoring Tanner’s health and, when the time comes, “they’ll be preemptive.” Donaldson told PJ Media that they won’t let his condition proceed to the point where he needs dialysis.
Donaldson is a perfect match, but the Cleveland Clinic is refusing to do the transplant because Dane has not received the COVID-19 vaccination. The hospital requires that all living donors be fully vaccinated before they go under the knife for a transplant.
Both parents are actually matches, but it was ultimately decided that Dane would be the one to donate a kidney to his son. He’s in good health, an avid CrossFitter, and is ready to have the surgery the moment it’s needed.
In November, the family was blindsided by a letter from the Cleveland Clinic informing them that Dane would not qualify to be the kidney donor unless he agrees to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
“To help keep you safe from COVID-19 disease before and after transplant, we are now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible transplant candidates and living donors,” the Cleveland Clinic Kidney and Pancreas Center explained in the letter. “This was a decision made by the leadership of all Cleveland Clinic transplant programs based on currently available medical evidence and is intended to make transplantation as successful as possible. After our meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson, they have maintained the decision for Mr. Donaldson not to be vaccinated, therefore at this time he is not a candidate to donate to Tanner. Tanner Donaldson remains a candidate for a kidney transplant and is currently still listed for transplant at our center.”
According to Donaldson, the family was told that organs are hard to come by and they want to make sure that the donors have all the antibodies necessary.
“They did not remove Tanner from the transplant list,” Donaldson said, “but they removed his best possible outcome: myself, the living donor, his dad.”
They tried explaining to the clinic that Dane Donaldson had recovered from COVID-19 and therefore has natural immunity—even presenting results from a T Detect test, which measures the T cell immune response to SARS-CoV-2—but their rationale fell on deaf ears. The parents’ lawyers contacted the Clinic to request a religious exemption for Donaldson, but the hospital never responded. The attorneys wrote in a letter to the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Bioethics in January:
The Donaldsons have continued to request that the Hospital provide the data to support their policy and have been refused this information. Moreover, the Donaldsons are open to any and all suggestions on mitigating risk. If the Hospital’s concerns regarding Dane’s vaccination status are due to the potential to transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to Tanner, all could be alleviated by simply testing Tanner for various markers of natural immunity to the disease in addition to continuing to test them both for COVID-19 up until the point of transplant. Lastly, if the Hospital fears litigation, the Donaldsons could waive their right to sue the hospital for any COVID-19- related complications. There are plenty of reasonable options in play to both mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and achieve a successful surgery for Tanner, but the Hospital refuses to come to the table. It is entirely unethical to refuse treatment to Tanner because the Hospital believes it is more of a risk to Tanner’s health that he might contract COVID-19 from the transplant rather than the real, actual impending danger of renal failure due to Stage 5 kidney disease.
Tanner’s mother Jennifer wrote in testimony to the Ohio legislature:
Tanner has been approved for a pre-emptive kidney transplant for about 2-3 years now with my husband being approved to be his living donor. Recently my son’s numbers have been creeping up and we have been in talks with his Nephrologist about potentially scheduling his transplant. In conversation with my son’s Nephrologist and the Infectious Disease doctor they questioned us on the Covid-19 injections. I politely indicated that my family and I have done many months of research and we are not going to take part in getting the injection–not now while it’s experimental (EUA) and not even if and when it is approved by FDA. These specialists became offensive, argumentative and told me this could pose a problem for Tanner and his continued transplant approval. I asked them to expand on this but they deferred since at this time the injection is not even EUA approved for children of his age–but they mentioned it will be soon. I am greatly concerned that this injection will be forced upon us in order to transplant my child and save his life. [Emphasis added]
Tanner Donaldson, a lively and sweet 9-year-old boy, has spent years of his life bearing the burden of chronic illness that has kept him from living a “normal” childhood. Unlike many in need of organ transplants, who are forced to pray and hope that an organ becomes available for them in time, Tanner was blessed with a miracle. His father, Dane, is a perfect match to donate one of his kidneys to Tanner. In any other year, Tanner would already be on the road to recovery post-operation, but thanks to the Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, Tanner is being refused the surgery on the grounds that his donor has not been vaccinated.
The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) has taken up Tanner’s cause. “Unfortunately, despite the Donaldsons’ pleas for the Hospital to make an exception, the Hospital has refused to budge – this despite the fact that Dane has natural immunity to COVID-19 which, as ICAN has repeatedly pointed out, is far superior to vaccine-induced immunity,” the organization said in a statement. “The Hospital appears to be operating under a psychosis of flawed morality in choosing to sacrifice the health and wellness of a 9-year-old patient in exchange for what it perceives to be the ‘greater good.’ The magnitude of the injustice of this situation for Tanner is hard to capture in words. After a grueling 4-year journey, Tanner, who is now entering stage 5 kidney disease, is having what may be his only chance at living a full life put at risk by an arbitrary and incredibly unethical new Hospital policy.”
The decision has left the family scrambling for other options, including seeking out another hospital that will perform the transplant or perhaps even another state like Florida or Texas.
“I don’t know what we do today. You know, I gotta think somewhere out there, that cooler heads would prevail and we could, you know, I’d love it still to be at the Clinic and us come around and have some type of dialogue and say, ‘Okay, you know, let’s look at your case,’” Donaldson told News 5 Cleveland. “We’re trying to put plan B in place. The number one thing I can do is keep him as healthy as possible and I can remain and keep my health the best I can. But it’s stressful. There’s no doubt about it. You know, it just is.”