Girl denied transplant over vaccination status receives kidney; lawsuit moving forward

Operating room staff perform a surgery.
Operating room staff perform a surgery. | Getty Images

A 14-year-old girl in North Carolina whose parents say she was denied a kidney transplant because of her vaccination status has received a kidney as efforts to prevent other families from having the same experience continue to move forward. 

Yulia Hicks received a new kidney last Thursday thanks to "an amazing live donor," according to the latest update on GiveSendGo's "Kidney for Yulia" fundraising page.

14-year-old Yulia Hicks has received a kidney transplant five months after her family first maintained that Duke University refused to perform a kidney transplant due to her vaccination status.
14-year-old Yulia Hicks has received a kidney transplant five months after her family first maintained that Duke University refused to perform a kidney transplant due to her vaccination status. | Screenshot: YouTube/Newsmax

Hicks, the adopted daughter of Chrissy and Lee Hicks, received national attention after the family claimed late last year that Duke University refused to conduct her transplant surgery because she was not vaccinated against COVID-19. 

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The update noted the child is "recovering well" and thanked the "entire team at [East Carolina University] Health for everything," describing the doctors and medical staff there as "the most caring and professional team that we have encountered on this journey."

The post also expressed gratitude for the attention given to the Hicks situation by conservative and religious media organizations and figures.

"Without the media attention, we would not have found our amazing live donor, JJ," the fundraiser maintained.

"We are now focusing our attention on Yulia's healing, getting Yulia's law passed, and the lawsuit with Duke," the update reads. 

Yulia's Law, also known as House Bill 586, is a measure pending in the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly.

If passed, it would amend state law regarding "Nondiscrimination in Organ Transplantation" to clarify that "an individual's right to health care is not diminished by a refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine." The measure would make it "unlawful" for any "licensed provider of health care services" to "deny medical services related to organ transplantation" based on an individual's vaccination status.

House Bill 586 passed the North Carolina House of Representatives in a 91-25 vote on May 2, with 20 Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in supporting the bill. All votes against the legislation came from Democrats. 

The bill awaits approval from the North Carolina Senate, where it has come before the Committee on Rules and Operation of the Senate. Hicks' GiveSendGo fundraiser expressed concern that the proposal was "in danger of not getting passed" and encouraged supporters to "call the NC legislature asking them to pass this law."

The lawsuit against Duke University was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on Dec. 12 and is moving forward in federal court. The complaint asserts that Duke University Hospital violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion at places of public accommodation, by declining to perform a kidney transplant on the teenager. 

The complaint contends that the hospital discriminated against the Hicks family based on its Catholic faith, which it identifies as the primary reason behind the objection to taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lawsuit states that Duke University Hospital officials informed the Hicks family that the hospital had "availed other, unvaccinated patients of transplant surgeries," insisting that "while Duke University Hospital has performed transplant surgeries on unvaccinated, non-Catholic persons, Duke refuses to even activate" Hicks on its transplant list. 

The family is seeking at least $5 million in "compensatory damages" due to the "intentional infliction of emotional distress" on the teenager and "punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial" and "an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs." 

Filed before her transplant surgery, the complaint asks a judge to order Duke University Hospital to list Hicks as "active" on the transplant list and prohibit the hospital from "altering, modifying, skipping, blocking, banning, suppressing, changing, or otherwise taking any action that does, could or is otherwise reasonably calculated to result in [Yulia Hicks] receiving the transplant surgery she needs." 

"The Hicks family adopted Yulia from the Ukraine in January of 2021 knowing that she had a genetic kidney condition that would eventually require surgery," the GiveSendGo fundraiser details. 

The teenager had undergone 15 months of daily dialysis, the fundraiser added, elaborating on how "the numerous pre-surgery tests, the procedure itself, recovery and the years of regular appointments" was taking a financial toll on the Hicks family.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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