Editorials and open letters
December 18, 2017
But on this latter point, it slips toward an issue of morality. Who is deserving or undeserving of organ transplants, of who gets to live or die? Who gets to decide? Critics have called the six-months-abstinence policy discriminatory and arbitrary. Amnesty International has argued that Canada has an obligation under international human rights law to respect and protect the right to health of people who use alcohol, regardless of whether the use has been harmful or abusive. (Montreal Gazette)
December 15, 2017
“We are deeply concerned that the decision to deny Delilah access to a liver transplant is on the basis of a policy which is discriminatory and inconsistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Our heart breaks for her family and loved ones, who have already endured so much, as they work desperately to ensure Delilah receives the transplant needed to save her life. What is at stake here is not only the case of a single patient, but a discriminatory policy which denies other individuals access to potentially life-saving transplants in Ontario as well.”
The current rule, meanwhile, is both arbitrary and discriminatory. Although liver transplant recipients face significant changes to their lifestyle post-surgery – including abstinence from alcohol and smoking – it is not the norm for our health system to deny treatment to people on the basis of earlier lifestyle choices. We do not, for instance, decline to treat smokers for cancer. The six-month guideline on drinking clearly targets those – in this case an Indigenous woman – who may have struggled socially or turned to alcohol in the past. To be blunt, the rule targets poorer and marginalized Canadians.