Employees of Henry Ford Health System sue over coronavirus vaccine requirement; then decide against it.
A lawsuit filed this month in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. District Court against Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) argued employees should be able to decide whether they want to receive the coronavirus vaccination rather than have it be mandated. The lawsuit, filed by fifty-one employees, came just short of a deadline requiring that all employees be vaccinated and claimed the requirement would subject them to “potential harm and death.” The suit cited data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. According to HFHS’s policy, any employee who is found to not be in compliance will be suspended and are expected to complete the vaccination process by October 1 or be terminated.
“Defendants’ actions to implement compulsory COVID-19 vaccine shots as a condition of continuing employment is both unconstitutional and has caused money damages to plaintiffs,” the lawsuit read. “Additionally, the actions of defendants subjects plaintiffs to a significant likelihood of bodily harm.”
U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg, appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama, was overseeing the case. Although three were physicians, many of the plaintiffs were registered nurses (RNs), and HFHS is currently experiencing a significant shortage of RNs. In August, Chief Operating Officer Bob Riney said the hospital system was “several hundred nurses short,” which is especially problematic during the pandemic.
The suit argued, “The policy violates the employees’ 14th Amendment right to bodily integrity and personal autonomy. The suit argues the denial of medical treatment is a fundamental right.” It states further, “Defendants claim the protection of their patients as a goal for the mandate, but this argument is illogical. If the ‘vaccines are effective,’ the vaccinated bear no risk created by the unvaccinated.”
In a surprise turn of events, however, the plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew the suit almost as quickly as it was filed. The removal may have been tied to an announcement around the same time made by President Joe Biden requiring immunizations for people working in health care facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
In June, more than 150 employees resigned or were terminated from the hospital system Houston Methodist after a Texas federal district judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a nurse who alleged said the vaccination policy was unlawful.
In a five-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, appointed by former Republican President Ronald Reagan, upheld the hospital’s policy, saying “the requirement broke no federal law.” He wrote, “This is not coercion. Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer.”
Hughes also denounced the plaintiffs for equating the vaccine mandate to forced experimentation during the Holocaust. “Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” he said. “Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death.”
Jared Woodfill, the plaintiffs’ attorney, responded to the decision that his clients are committed to appealing, stating, “What is shocking is that many of my clients were on the front line treating COVID-positive patients at Texas Methodist Hospital during the height of the pandemic. As a result, many of them contracted COVID-19. As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy.”
Only about 56%, or about 4.8 million people, over the age of 12 in Michigan are fully vaccinated, according to state data.