An Alberta woman risks losing her life after The University of Alberta Hospital threatened to take her off a donor list for a lung transplant because she has chosen not to receive the new Covid-19 vaccine.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms represents Annette Lewis, who has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal condition affecting both of her lungs. Lewis has suffered from the illness for over two years and has waited for a transplant for one year. A few months ago, it was recorded that her lung capacity was at just 40 percent and that without a lung transplant, she will die.
Lewis recorded her conversation with the Hospital and provided it to the Justice Centre. "All of our pre-transplant patients are going to be required to have the Covid vaccine," the doctor tells Lewis.
"…if I don't take the vaccine, then I go off the donor list. Is that what you mean?" asked Lewis. "Yeah," replied the doctor.
"…wow… that's pretty scary," said Lewis, who needs the transplant to survive.
"Yeah," replied the doctor again.
"If I don't get the vaccine, I'm not going to get the transplant, and we all know what the end result of that is for me," continued Lewis.
"Yeah," replied the doctor again. Annette Lewis was faced with death if she didn't get the transplant.
"It's damned if you do and damned if you don't in my case," said Lewis to the doctor.
"Yes," replied the doctor.
In a follow up letter dated August 9, 2021, the Hospital advised Ms. Lewis she will not get her transplant without the vaccine. This was confirmed again in a subsequent telephone conversation that Lewis had with a member of the Lung Transplant Program team on September 2, 2021, wherein Ms. Lewis was told that she is "number two" on the donor-recipient list but would need to get the Covid-19 vaccines in order to get her transplant.
On the same day, the Justice Centre sent a legal demand letter to Dr. Rhea Varughese Assistant Professor at the Lung Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, regarding the program's decision to require all patients waiting for a double-lung transplant to submit to the Covid vaccine.
The Justice Centre has demanded that the Lung Transplant Program team provide confirmation within seven days that Lewis is exempt from any covid-19 vaccine and will remain on the transplant list.
"The Hospital's conduct in making an ultimatum of this nature to a terminally ill patient is coercive and unethical. Threatening a patient's access to life-saving medical treatment for not participating in an experimental treatment for a condition she does not have and may never get is a profound violation of Ms. Lewis' human dignity, personal autonomy, and her constitutionally protected right to life, liberty and security of the person," says Allison Pejovic, a Justice Centre Staff Lawyer.
"If Ms. Lewis is removed from the transplant list, she will die. This is a gross violation of her freedom of choice. Having to choose between taking an experimental vaccine that she does not want, or certain death is not a choice," Ms. Pejovic concludes.
Vaccines that protect against Covid-19 have been approved by Health Canada.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is a pro-bono charity based law group, dedicated to defending the Rights of Canadians.