Alberta appeal court refuses organ transplant for dying, unvaccinated woman

Mike Campbell

November 8, 2022

Alberta’s court of appeals affirmed the decision to deny an unvaccinated woman an organ transplant, which doctors say she needs or she will die. 

Alberta appeal court refuses organ transplant for dying, unvaccinated woman
Alberta appeal court refuses organ transplant for dying, unvaccinated woman.

On Tuesday, the court ruled that a doctor’s medical judgment cannot violate another’s Charter rights.

“The charter does not apply to the (doctors’) exercise of clinical judgments in formulating pre-conditions to organ transplant, including requiring vaccination against COVID-19 in the wake of the pandemic,” the judge said, as reported by the Calgary Herald.

To get an organ transplant, doctors funded by Alberta Health Services told Sheila Lewis she must be vaccinated. The medical judgment was not written as a formal policy but was communicated to her verbally.

A doctor “told me if I did not take the COVID-19 vaccine, I would not get the transplant, and if I did not get the transplant, I would die,” Lewis said in July.

She added, “I ought to have the choice about what goes into my body, and a life-saving treatment cannot be denied to me because I chose not to take an experimental treatment for a condition.”

Lower courts previously denied her claim.

Now, an Alberta court of appeals judge has agreed with the lower court ruling that it’s legally acceptable for doctors to remove Canadians from organ transplant waitlists if they’re not inoculated against COVID-19. 

“Ms. Lewis argued that the Covid-19 vaccine policy infringed on her Charter-protected rights of conscience, life, liberty and security of the person, and equality rights,” stated the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).

JCCF said the court of appeals judge agreed with lower courts that the Charter does not apply to hospital policies. Aside from hospital policies, the judge further determined that the ruling does not violate Lewis’ rights. 

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s decision,” said Lewis’ legal counsel, Ms. Allison Pejovic.

“Ms. Lewis has fought against this discriminatory policy not only for herself, but for all transplant candidates who are similarly being discriminated against. We will review the decision further and consider an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

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