The Extreme Cognitive Dissonance of an Anti-Vaxxer

Being willing to do anything to survive, but not that.

This story via CBS News underscores the utter illogic of the anti-vaccination stance, Hospital refusing heart transplant for man who won’t get vaccinated.

A Boston hospital says it won’t consider performing a heart transplant on a patient who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19, CBS Boston reports.

DJ Ferguson, 31, is fighting for his life at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in desperate need of a heart transplant.

[…]

“It’s kind of against his basic principles — he doesn’t believe in it,” David Ferguson says. “It’s a policy they are enforcing and so, because he won’t get the shot, they took him off the list (for) a heart transplant.”

[…]

Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, explains that being vaccinated is necessary for this type of procedure.

“Post any transplant, kidney, heart whatever, your immune system is shut off,” Caplan said. “The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving.”

The hospital’s position is sound. Organs are hard to come by and surgery of this type is complex and expensive. Doing all that is reasonable to ensure success makes perfect medical sense.

What I find truly remarkable is for someone to be willing to trust medical science to the point of having one’s heart removed and replaced but is unwilling to trust it over this vaccine.

I mean, sure: all the other drugs needed for a transplant are fine, but let’s draw the line at at Covid vaccine because, well, someone did their own research? It is almost unbelievable that someone would be willing to trust the medications, treatments, and massive surgery for a heart transplant, but a vaccine is just a bridge too far.

“I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more,” David Ferguson said.

Which is why the family is sticking by his side and hoping for the best. “It’s his body. It’s his choice,” Ferguson added.

It is strange place to draw the line.

I mean, the worst thing in one’s darkest fantasies the vaccine could do to a person is kill them, yes?

I am not a medical doctor, but I am pretty certain that if a person needs a heart transplant and they don’t get one, they will die.

It is a draw dropping display of the human mind’s capacity to hold diametrically opposed ideas simultaneously.

It also underscore the poison that that has been spread by anti-vaxxers.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Health, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The hospital’s position is sound.

    Their position also has been the norm for transplants for… As long as I can remember. They have to put checks on one’s immune system just to keep the body from rejecting the organ. In the process it puts one at risk to all kinds of preventable diseases. If a person isn’t going to do the least tiny thing to avoid some, there’s no point in assuming they will do anything at all to avoid the rest.

    “I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more,” David Ferguson said. Which is why the family is sticking by his side and hoping for the best. “It’s his body. It’s his choice,” Ferguson added.

    The right wing has a serious martyrdom complex.

    13
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I can’t wait for the malpractice lawsuits that will be filed after he dies.

  3. Argon says:

    “Principle”.

    That’s exactly why he’s no longer in the queue for a transplant. The transplantation review board is sticking to its principles for the fair and most impactful distribution of a very scarce, critical resource.

    16
  4. Jax says:

    It’s hard to have any empathy for them anymore, and I’ve given up trying to understand them. An acquaintance of mine who works as an LPN absolutely refused to get the vax. To the point where she got her hours and pay cut, lost her benefits, and they kicked her out of a cost-sharing program where the facility paid for half of her continuing education to qualify as an RN. She’d already put $18,000 into it. Finally, after losing ALLLLL of that, she got the J&J vax. I’m just shaking my damn head, wondering how she thought her political stance was really worth such a financial hit. It will never make sense to me.

    And of course she’s the “victim” now. (eyeroll)

    19
  5. CSK says:

    As a side note, the anti-rejection drugs one take after a heart transplant are the most immunosuppressive of all the anti-rejection drugs.

    14
  6. Kathy says:

    If they can put magnetizing/tracking/cell-service 5 G chips in 1.5 ml of vaccine, imagine what fits inside a 230-340 gram heart. I’m thinking a CRAY supercomputer and a teleporter. Clearly one is better off with a natural heart replacement. You know, you get a different heart in your next life.

    15
  7. gVOR08 says:

    Owning the libs has jumped the shark. Yesterday I accidentally hit a link in Volokh and found myself in comments on a Reason article about vaccines. Boy howdy is that magazine misnamed. It all started with TFG politicizing anti-COVID measures like two years ago. It was a tactic to motivate the base against Ds. It was part of owning the libs. But public health isn’t particularly a liberal position. It’s grown into own the public officials, own Fauci, own the scientists, own the school teachers, even own Trump when he comes out for vaccination. It’s all a very performative own everybody except thee and me, and maybe thee.

    8
  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    I shared this article with my sister yesterday, who happens to be waiting for a new heart.*

    She essentially had your take, but with many more curse words. This tidbit was interesting though: “I mean, this guy had to go out of his way to fight off this vaccine. Do you know how many times I’ve consented to the flu vaccine in the last eight years? ZERO times. When you are on the transplant list, you get shots in your arm every damn time you go to the doctor. Every year without fail I get a need jabbed in me and AFTERWARDS I’m told ‘that was the flu vaccine.’ WTF would I go through all this and then let the flu kill me?”

    She then went on an extended rant about mental and sexual abilities of this young man until closing with.

    “The victims here are this guy’s family. They’ve stuck by him and had to watch him go through unimaginable hell for years, and he’s going to give them the middle finger and flush it all down the drain because 30% of America has joined a goddamned cult.”

    *If you have young family members of driving age and you do not know whether or not they’ve signed an organ donor card, nor their intent, have the hard discussion now. You don’t want to have to make those decisions while also processing the unimaginable grief of losing a son or daughter, and unfortunately the delay in your decision making will mean organs atrophy and young people waiting for that miraculous gift are woken back up from surgery to be informed they’ll have to wait a few more months or years.

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  9. Scott says:

    I keep trying to find something to respond here but the mind just rebels at this alternative universe these people live in. Entitlement, victimization and on and on.

    BTW, was the Meatloaf reference intentional?

    1
  10. just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I agree with Mr. Ferguson about his boy’s courage and commitment to his principles. And he should rejoice that his son will be able to join with the Apostle Paul in saying “I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.” Not many of us can honorably stand with them in saying it.

    2
  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have observed something like this a few times before – there are people in this world who would rather die than be wrong.

    5
  12. Joe says:

    In some ways, this is sort of a “nothing to see here.” Young Mr. Ferguson has his principals, the hospital has theirs. Those differing principles exclude a transaction between them. Happens all the time. Young Mr. Ferguson can be on his merry (and probably very short way) and the hospital can focus on patients with a higher probability to benefit from the hospital’s scarce resources. Another day in America.

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  13. Crusty Dem says:

    Zero tolerance for stupidity is built into the transplant guidelines because of the constant maintenance these patients need just to stay healthy, post transplant.

    2 key points – 1) Organ transplant recipients get the best care and all interventions possible but the COVID fatality rate among all organ transplant recipients > 20% – so the issue here is not your typical “there’s a 0.1-2% chance you’ll have some issues” and 2) When some won’t comply with something as basic as a vaccine protecting from (1), what makes you think someone like this won’t just wake up one day and say “I don’t need these immune suppressing drugs”, etc.

    8
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    he’s going to give them the middle finger and flush it all down the drain because 30% of America has joined a goddamned cult.”

    A cult? Surely not. This guy is committing suicide due to standard partisan sorting.

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  15. @Michael Reynolds:

    A cult? Surely not. This guy is committing suicide due to standard partisan sorting.

    Sigh.

    He actually kind of is, which is scarier to me than a cult, TBH. But yet, this is more cult like than a lot of the items we have discussed.

    Although the modifier “standard” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. (And you are mischaracterizing my position).

    I would further engage on this, but it is pointless.

    I am not sure why you feel the need to stir the pot on this topic on an ongoing basis.

    Perhaps we could just agree that it is damn stupid to throw your life away on something like this?

    4
  16. @Neil Hudelson: Much luck and good thoughts to your sister. The curse words were more than warranted.

    And the @Scott:

    BTW, was the Meatloaf reference intentional?

    It was.

    6
  17. Pete S says:

    To me there is a lot of irony here that it is this idiot’s fellow travellers on the antivax path, who are filling up the hospitals and making the vaccine even more important for him to survive the surgery. But he is on their side! Without their lunacy he could probably at least avoid exposure to covid while in the hospital.

    I won’t pretend that I live a carefully well thought out life but I do try and avoid supporting people who genuinely don’t care if their actions will kill me.

    7
  18. Jax says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Giggling….That was his special Dr. Taylor dog whistle, just give him a middle finger emoji and say “Not today, Satan!” 😛

    Works for me on all kinds of stuff! It’s especially funny when my teenager’s trying to goad me into arguing with her and I say it out loud.

    4
  19. wr says:

    Somewhere out there #2 on the heart list is sending a thank you card to Tucker Carlson.

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  20. Argon says:

    And the father for enabling his son to let his three grandchildren grow up without a father… WTF?!

    7
  21. @Jax: I know I fell for it! 🙂

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would further engage on this, but it is pointless.

    I am not sure why you feel the need to stir the pot on this topic on an ongoing basis.

    At the risk of speaking for Michael, I took his jibe as a good natured and humorous poke, not an attack. I’m sure he will correct me if I am wrong.

    3
  23. @MarkedMan: I saw it less as an attack, as stirring the pot (or poke, as you say).

    I should have not commented, TBH.

    2
  24. just nutha says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I’m not sure why you feel the need to stir the pot on this topic on an ongoing basis.”

    Virtue signaling?

    4
  25. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I was going to make the same point as Michael. When can we actually call someone a cult member? I ask because it would make it much easier, and it would put in proper context their behavior.

    I ask seriously.

    6
  26. MarkedMan says:

    @EddieInCA: To be honest, I find all these endless arguments about definitions to be quite tiring. Everyone involved pretty much agree on what Trumpers are, they just disagree about whether that should be called a cult. To me, it’s a tremendous waste of time. FWIW, here’s an online dictionary definition of “cult” that would appear to allow pretty much anything to fit:

    a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
    “a cult of personality surrounding the leaders”

    1
  27. @MarkedMan: Which is largely why I shouldn’t have taken the bait.

    here’s an online dictionary definition of “cult” that would appear to allow pretty much anything to fit

    Which is part of why I don’t like the term.

    1
  28. Gustopher says:

    Being willing to do anything to survive, but not that.

    Messed with the meter too much. Lost a bit of Mr. Loaf’s charm and phrasing.

    Maybe “They would do anything to live, but they won’t do that.”

    3
  29. @EddieInCA: Not to ignore your question, I will say this. First, I think that “cult” is too colloquial and is used in this context to as much show disapproval as anything else (it is a value judgment). Second, I that, as noted, “cult” lacks real definition, and the issue here is far more about the truly pernicious ways that politics and misinformation can lead to very bad outcomes.

    1
  30. Scott F. says:

    @Argon:

    And the father for enabling his son to let his three grandchildren grow up without a father… WTF?!

    That was what struck me as well. What I wouldn’t have given for the reporter to follow-up the dad’s comment with a question along the lines of “Could you talk me through how you’re going to explain which principles DJ lived by to your orphaned grandkids?”

    2
  31. @Gustopher: Much better.

    1
  32. Gustopher says:

    Good for the next person on the recipient list!

    If it is a tragedy, it’s a very minor tragedy, and a blessing for someone else. That heart isn’t going to go to waste.

    Unless someone slips while delivering it and it skids across the floor and a dog eats it while everyone looks on in horror. (What show was that from?)

  33. Jen says:

    It’s surreal. I guess we should all be thankful that any available heart now has a chance to go to someone who can pair it with a brain.

    9
  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.: Exactly. I mean, DJ could just as easily believe that no peanut butter should ever be wasted and then die of asphyxiation when you got his head stuck in an industrial sized peanut butter jar, striving to reach that last dollop. At some point, no matter how grandpappy builds him up, the kids are going to realize he was just an idiot, and one that didn’t care all that much about his kids either.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    I’m OK with calling the MAGAts a cult. I disagree with calling it a cult of personality or a Trump cult. GOPs were like that before Trump took his escalator ride and they’d still be like that if he died tomorrow.

    3
  36. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Thank you. That’s fair. But in my opinion, these anti-vaxxers, and some anti-maskers, are given too much of a pass. The original story on the anti-vaxxer being refused a heart transplant is given way, way too much deference and sympathy in my opinion. The headline alone is misleading, and invokes sympathy for the nutter. A better, more honest, headline would have been “Anti-vaxxer Refuses Basic Medical Requirement to Receive Neccessary Heart Transplant To Keep Him Alive.”

    The CBS story only tells 1/2 the story.

    @MarkedMan:

    We disagree. If I say “Someone is in a cult”, whoever is listening immediately understands what I am saying about said person. It’s shorthand. And usually accurate in terms of what I am trying to convey. I can say “They’re crazy” or “They’re dishonest”. That doesn’t resonate way too often.

    But if I say “They’re in a cult”, people know exactly what I mean.

    6
  37. KM says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    the issue here is far more about the truly pernicious ways that politics and misinformation can lead to very bad outcomes.

    To steal a phrase, politics and misinformation don’t kill people – people kill people. At some point it’s merely splitting hairs on if we should call them a “cult” or not. If they act like one and fit the semi-official criteria for them (yes, there is an generally agreed upon list by experts), then they are a de facto cult if not de jure. Anti-vaxxers function as ade facto cult whether it pleases an academic impulse to avoid colloquiums or imprecise verbiage.

    Mr Ferguson and his family have been convinced to an extremely recent way of thinking that *will* kill him with zero benefit to them actively pushed by a charismatic figure and his disciples. Defiant underdog status and martyrdom are the point, not a side effect of principle stances. He clearly wasn’t anti-vax before as you need a TON as part of the transplant pre-ops process and he would have been disqualified ages ago for it. He was evangelized to this way of thinking within 2 years to the point he is willing to give up his extremely rare chance to survive because of radical group think that is viciously self-perpetuating and policing. His death is irrelevant – being morally right is considered more important than survival and death be denied or lied about so the greater narrative can continue. Politics may or may not be involved as the overriding characteristics of anti-vaxxers seems to be don’t-tell-ME-what-to-do or conspiracy thinking; that it skews right is more a function of how the GOP’s gone insane then his personal political stance. We don’t know he’s right-wing – he could be liberal as all get out but for this one thing.

    Ferguson is acting like a cult member, martyring himself for his beliefs. His fanatical stance isn’t esoteric adherence to principle, it’s the intended end of anti-vaxxer logic. If it quacks like a duck when waddling past, it’s not a horse.

    9
  38. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Prior to Trump, they fixated on Sarah Palin. She was St. Joan of Wasilla who was going to gallop down from the Alaskan reaches to rescue them.

  39. Kathy says:

    I wonder how different the vaccine mediated immune response is for people on immunosuppressant drugs, as well as on those with immune system disorders.

    For the former, some can get the vaccine before transplant surgery makes it necessary to suppress their immune systems. That ought to make a difference.

  40. DK says:

    Another victim of murderous antivax extremist cult leaders Joe Rogan, Candace Owens, and Tucker Carlson. A sad, sad story, but also not a tragedy. The radical right cultists are dying with their boots on and removing themselves from the gene and voting pools.

    Thoughts and prayers to his young children, who deserved a less selfish sperm donor. Those poor babies.

    7
  41. Just nutha says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:I find myself leaning the same way about the term. Lord knows THEY don’t care what others call them, and that reduces the act to calling out to one’s own team. There’s a term for that. It’s right on the tip of my tongue…

  42. MarkedMan says:

    @EddieInCA:

    We disagree.

    I’m not sure what exactly you think we disagree on. Unless it is my contention that “cult” means different things to different people. (FWIW, I don’t have any solid idea of what I think it means.) I would go a step further. In this whole long (and, to me, tedious) argument I can’t recall anyone offering up a definition of cult and then saying the trumpers belong/don’t belong because and then refer to that definition. I’m pretty sure that you and I and Michael and Steven all have pretty similar ideas of what the trumpers are like, yet there seems to be 2 and 1/2 different opinions on whether the trumpers are cultists. Isn’t that proof that we don’t agree on the definition?

    Just out of curiosity, what makes something a cult?

    1
  43. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    and fit the semi-official criteria for them (yes, there is an generally agreed upon list by experts)

    Really? I would love to see it. Because I suspect that while experts might generally agree on the characteristics of a dangerous religious cult, that the definition of a political cult is pretty nebulous. But it would be interesting to be wrong about that…

  44. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW, was the Meatloaf reference intentional?

    It was.

    I went there first, in the last post:
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/meat-loaf-1947-2022/

  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That was a long way of saying: “Touche” LoL

    2
  46. EddieInCA says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Just out of curiosity, what makes something a cult?

    To me it means a group of people who refuse to believe objective reality in pursuit of a completely wrong and/or illogical goal defined by the group.

    Some cults in my opinion:

    Trumpsters
    Tesla Owners
    Oath Keepers
    Proud Boys
    KluKlux Members
    Q-Anon adherents
    Extreme Wokesters
    Anti-Vaxxers

    There are many more, in my definition, but you get the point.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/07/12/what-makes-a-cult-a-cult

    3
  47. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: I think this exchange exemplifies something Ive been thinking about lately. The Academic slant of Liberals and the Left…while a benefit…is a drag when it comes to external communications with Republicans and Voters without College degrees.

    As functionally the voice and cultural center of the Democratic Party IMO, Academics do a terrible job of connecting with people not academically inclined. I heard a theory of why this might be: many Academics today are the 3/4 Generation of college educated people in their family and many more Academics have few or zero non college friends. Makes it really hard to connect with people if you dont share their interests and/or spaces.

    Democrats need to split hairs and discuss Partisan Sorting in coffee houses and conferences. When they go on the news and to Town Halls that need to call these people Cultists.

    4
  48. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @EddieInCA: You forgot Cowboy Fans…

    2
  49. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Gustopher: Dammit! Reading your comment made me think of the scene in Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder sends Marty Feldman to fetch the brain of a dead scientist – with unanticipated results.

  50. @Jim Brown 32:

    Democrats need to split hairs and discuss Partisan Sorting in coffee houses and conferences. When they go on the news and to Town Halls that need to call these people Cultists.

    In some ways you are hitting on the fact that there is a clear difference between precise scientific language and political rhetoric. On that fact you will get no argument from me.

    My problem is that often folks want to use what are clearly imprecise, rhetorical terms but then also want to pretend that they are fully accurate terms.

    As I have noted in the past, it is not that I am trying to ban the word “cult” from usage, even as it pertain to Trump supporters. I have frequently agreed that I can see the way that the term might be colloquially used to describe MAGA hatted rally attenders. What I have not agreed with, and MR and I have gone round and round on this, that all Republicans are cultists or the Trump’s election is the result of a cult of personality, etc.

    This is not because I think calling GOP voters “cultists” is mean. I think it is a misdiagnosis.

    Look, the common cold and SARS-Cov-2 are both coronaviruses, but it kind of matters which coronavirus you have if you are sick, yes?

    Back to the conferences/coffee houses v. on the stump comparison: my writing is always going to be more in the former than the latter (which would seems to be obvious, but some folks still seem a bit amazed that I care so much about terms).

    3
  51. @EddieInCA:

    To me it means a group of people who refuse to believe objective reality in pursuit of a completely wrong and/or illogical goal defined by the group.

    This strikes me as a remarkably over-broad definition that I am not sure is helpful.

    This would make flat-earthers cultists (and maybe they are) but how is being in a cult different from just being wrong?

    This arguably makes all religions a cult (or all but one, depending on one’s POV). I know MR would agree with that, but I am not sure that is a useful definition.

    And if you are serious that Tesla Owners are cultists, it rather blunts the usefulness of the term, does it not?

  52. @Jim Brown 32: I will let the dig pass by, but note that by the definition provided, almost all sports fans would be cultists (at least the ones who have anything other than a clear-eyed and rational assessment of their teams).

    1
  53. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Absolutely, I believe the benefit of this forum is for the academically inclined to share information. There are plenty of “coffee house” forums but OTB fills a different niche. As you alluded to, its important for our academically inclined people to understand that certain information and concepts need to be distilled to the least common denominator of understanding for discussions in different target audiences.

    Personally, I split the baby at: The Republican party nor the Trump wing formed around Trump for the reasons the faithful form around a Cult figure. The reasons they STAY around Trump–is very similar to the reasons people stay in a cult. This is what gives their infatuation the look and feel of Cultism.

    The difference–a Cult leader is ALL about the personality not ideas. Trumpism is actually about ideas–but Donald Trump is a master at personifying those ideas. He has less wiggle room than an actual cult leader–and can be jettisoned overboard himself. Something that would never happen in an actually cult.

  54. Chelsea says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: where’s the malpractice?