Family of Delilah Saunders continues to fight for liver transplant
The battle to get a well-known Indigenous rights activist a liver transplant continues.
Delilah Saunders was flown to Toronto General Hospital on Thursday night to see a liver specialist. Saunders’ family says she’s suffering acute liver failure, and could die without a transplant.
“We know she isn’t going to get better. They told me her liver has failed, she needs a liver,” says Delilah’s mother Miriam Saunders.
Ontario applies the widely-held requirement that a patient must be sober for six-months prior to receiving a liver transplant. Based on those guidelines, Delilah isn’t a candidate; however she’s being assessed by specialists to determine if surgery is necessary and safe.
Dr. Vincent Bain runs the transplant program at the University of Alberta. He says opinions vary about the six-month sobriety rule.
“Blindly applied the six-month rule is a bit meaningless so that’s why when studies are done it comes out that way. It’s really just been one tool and programs are starting to get away from it,” says Dr. Bain.
There is a waiting list for liver transplants, and strict protocols in place to ensure a fair process.
“The guidelines are there to try and determine which candidates will have a long-term good outcome post-transplant,” says Dr. Eric Yoshida of the Vancouver General Hospital.
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.
A vigil was held Thursday night in Halifax in support of Saunders. She arrived in the city in 2014 after her sister Loretta was murdered.
“We are here for the Saunders’ family and for Delilah. We care for them and they are in our hearts and our prayers,” says supporter Teresa Palliser.
The family’s local government is appealing to Ontario’s Minister of Health.
Amnesty International also wrote to the head of Ontario’s Transplant Agency, saying;
“To deny individuals access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment purely on the grounds of their prior or current health status, including conditions resulting from the use of alcohol, is discriminatory,”
Saunders isn’t on a transplant list at this point. The family expects to know whether she’ll be considered a candidate for surgery over the next couple of days, and say they are prepared to take their fight to court if she is turned down.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.