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Dying man challenging transplant sobriety requirement, says it discriminates against Indigenous people

Last Updated Aug 13, 2019 at 8:28 pm MDT

Summary

David Dennis is a chronic alcoholic with end-stage liver disease

He has launched a formal challenge to the policy through the BC Human Rights Tribunal

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An Indigenous man is challenging rules requiring alcoholics to stay sober for six months in order to be eligible for a new liver, arguing it’s a racist policy.

David Dennis is a chronic alcoholic with end-stage liver disease, and he has launched a formal challenge to the policy through the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Dennis says he’s been booted off the wait list, and argues he would be a priority candidate for a transplant under different circumstances.

His challenge, backed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, argues the rule requiring six months of sobriety is a lethal form of racism.

In a news release, the UBCIC says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for recognition of how Indigenous health has been impacted over hundreds of years.

“The Abstinence Policy discriminates against Indigenous peoples, who have disproportionately higher rates of alcohol use disorder largely due to the centuries of racist and harmful colonial policies implemented at all levels of Canadian government, but especially through the intergenerational traumas of the Indian residential schools on Indigenous families and communities,” the release says.

“The Abstinence Policy is another case of an antiquated, moralizing policy that disproportionately punishes Indigenous peoples without any scientific rationale,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the UBCIC, adds.

Dennis says he wants to live, and be there for his children.

“Every morning I wake up to see my daughter wake up – she’s going to school soon,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to explain to a five-and-a-half-year-old why dad doesn’t get the same shot as the next person.”

Dennis says he hasn’t had a drink since mid-May but if he doesn’t get a new liver soon, he will die.

“I’m willing to give as much as I’m asking for,” he says. “I’ve attended programs, attended counseling, and I really feel like that part of my life is over. I am preparing to have my life end and making those practical things like funeral arrangements.”

NEWS 1130 has contacted BC Transplant for comment on this story.