Critically ill Indigenous rights activist to be assessed by liver specialist in Toronto
A well-known Indigenous rights activist in desperate need of a liver transplant is being transferred to a hospital in Toronto to be assessed by a liver specialist.
Delilah Saunders is currently in a Ottawa hospital slipping in and out of consciousness suffering acute liver failure. Her family says it was caused by taking medication for a tooth ache.
The doctors have told them she needs a liver transplant, but isn't eligible.
“They’re even refusing me to give a part of my liver to save my baby,” says Miriam Saunders, Delilah’s mother.
The agency that oversees Ontario's transplant system states a patient must abstain from alcohol for six months before they can receive a liver transplant.
Delilah Saunders is the sister of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, who was found dead in a wooded area off the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick two weeks after disappearing from her Halifax apartment. Since then, Delilah has become an outspoken advocate for murdered and missing Indigenous women.
Darlene Gilbert helped the Saunders family when Loretta was murdered. She organized a vigil for Delilah in Halifax Thursday night.
“She lost her sister. Yes, she's struggled with addiction. We all struggle with addiction. But the point is everyone deserves a second chance at life,” says Gilbert.
Debra Selkirk's husband died after he was turned down for a transplant due to alcohol abuse.
She took the Ontario government to court and won. Trillium Gift of Life Network was ordered to review those strict guidelines, but that doesn’t begin until August 2018.
There’s concern Delilah can’t wait that long.
“Because they're Canadians and they have universal health care and I believe that everyone has the same right to health care treatment as the next patient,” says Selkirk.
There is now an online petition asking for signatures of support and a GoFundMe page for the Saunders family.
The Saunders have hired a lawyer and been contacted by Amnesty International. They believe the transplant rule violates human rights.
“They told me her liver has failed and she needs a liver. So I’m sitting here while I watch our Government of Canada murder my daughter,” Miriam Saunders says.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.