Unvaccinated Albertan: removal from transplant list is unconstitutional

“She wants to survive, and she doesn’t want to do anything that could endanger her survival”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct information about Lewis’s status on the AHS organ transplant waiting list. She remains on the list pending the court’s decision on her case.

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An Alberta woman is asking a judge to declare unconstitutional a decision requiring her to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before a major medical procedure.

Annette Lewis says Alberta Health Services will remove her from a waiting list for a vital organ transplant if she refuses to take what she considers an “experimental” vaccine.

During an injunction hearing on Wednesday, Allison Pejovic, Lewis’ lawyer, said the Court of Queen’s Bench should enjoin AHS from removing Lewis from his place on the transplant list and allow the operation to continue without a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pejovic, an attorney at the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms who has argued against COVID-19 public health measures throughout the pandemic, told Judge Paul Belzil that her client was not a conspiracy theorist, an “anti -vaxxer” or a supporter of the “freedom convoy” that descended on Ottawa earlier this year.

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“We are here today to talk about the importance of choice without coercion,” she said.

AHS and the doctors named in Lewis’s application argue that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and a reasonable requirement for someone undergoing major surgery. Doctors’ advocate Daniel Morrow said transplant recipients are among the groups most at risk of dying from COVID-19 infection.

A restricted access order and publication ban prevents Postmedia from identifying the specific organ Lewis needs, as well as the name of the hospital and doctors involved.

“She wants to survive”

Lewis, 57, says she will die without the transplant. She first met a team of doctors in 2019 after developing serious health issues and was placed on a waiting list for the organ in June 2020.

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Prior to joining the roster, Lewis had to repeat a series of childhood vaccinations after AHS failed to locate his vaccination history. Pejovic acknowledged that these vaccines are “safe”.

In March 2021, Lewis says she met with a doctor who told her she needed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to receive a transplant. “He told me that if I didn’t take the COVID-19 vaccine I wouldn’t get the transplant, and if I didn’t get the transplant I would die,” she said in a sworn statement.

Lewis says she is worried about reports of vaccine-related side effects and says taking one is “against my conscience”.

“She wants to survive and she doesn’t want to do anything that can put her survival at risk,” Pejovic said of her client.

In support of Lewis’ position, Pejovic presented testimony from two faculty members of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, Bonnie Mallard, a professor specializing in animal immunology, and Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist. .

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Pejovic said Belzil should not agree to attempts by AHS and doctors to undermine Mallard and Bridle because of their association with the anti-warrant Canadian COVID Care Alliance, which has advocated for the use of ivermectin in the treatment of patients with coronavirus.

Pejovic also revealed that Mallard spoke at a freedom convoy rally against COVID-19 measures in Ottawa earlier this year, but said his research was sound and his speaking engagements were not the proof “that she has a program and should not be followed”.

Bridle has also been on the anti-mandate “circuit,” Pejovic said, but argued that his “views on politics on a personal level don’t color his scientific findings” on vaccines.

Michael Houghton, a University of Alberta virologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the hepatitis C virus, was among those who testified on behalf of AHS.

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Pejovic slammed the report prepared by Houghton for AHS, calling it “simple” and saying the Nobel laureate “came in here thinking he could win the court with the fact that he won a Nobel Prize.” .

Morrow, the doctors’ lawyer, said transplant patients undergo immunosuppression to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ, making them “extremely vulnerable” to infection. Transplant physicians, meanwhile, must balance their obligations to other patients, donors, and their families in a world where organs are scarce.

Morrow said it’s not uncommon for someone to die while waiting for an organ to become available, and doctors are “medically and ethically obligated to allocate organs…to those who need them most.” and with the best probability of short-term and long-term survival.”

He said Lewis’s candidacy is an attempt to “bypass” doctors’ medical expertise, which, if successful, would have “serious and far-reaching consequences”.

AHS attorneys and doctors are expected to continue their submissions on Thursday. Belzil said he will issue his decision in writing by July 22.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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