Supporters demand Delilah Saunders be put on liver transplant list

Amy Elson

Supporters demand Delilah Saunders be put on liver transplant list

Saunders' family said she is in good spirits but has not improved and is in a Toronto hospital.

She was denied a transplant due to Tylenol and alcohol consumption but supporters say she had struggled since her sister's murder.

According to friends and family, doctors had told Delilah Saunders she was not eligible to go on a waiting list in Ontario because the advocate for Indigenous rights had not abstained from alcohol for a minimum of six months.

Transplant physicians have said the six-month abstinence policy is widely applied in Canada and overseas, in part because there is research showing that some alcoholics resume drinking after a transplant, leading to liver failure or damage.

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Saunders, 26, who was admitted to Ottawa's General hospital on December 8 with liver failure, was turned down for a transplant, her family says, because she had not abstained from alcohol for six months, which is a requirement for patients with alcohol-associated liver disease.

Saunders friends have said her liver problems may have been aggravated by acetaminophen that she was taking for chronic jaw pain.

However, her younger brother said Friday she was transferred from The Ottawa Hospital late Thursday to the University Health Network, where she is undergoing tests at the transplant clinic.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada's English branch, and his francophone counterpart, Béatrice Vaugrante, have taken up Saunders' cause.

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The human rights' organization is also urging that no one else be denied access to organ transplants for the same reasons. Her family has not told her that she had been rejected for a transplant. Denying access to a liver transplant, they said, contravenes Canada's obligations under worldwide human rights law.

It said the treatment of Delilah Saunders contravenes Canada's obligations under global law, said called for an overhaul of Ontario's organ donation system.

Dr. Les Lilly, a liver specialist at the hospital, said an average of 1.5 people die weekly waiting for liver transplants at the University Health Network.

Delilah Saunders is the sister of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuk woman who was murdered in Halifax in February of 2014. She spoke at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Membertou, N.S.

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