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Breaking:: Case of Alberta patient denied transplant over refusal of COVID vaccine heard by Supreme Court


Canada’s Supreme Court will not hear the appeal of an Alberta woman who was unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to receive a life-saving organ transplant.

Annette Lewis was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2018 and was told she would not survive unless she received an organ transplant.

In 2020, she was placed on a waiting list for a transplant program in Edmonton, but was told a year later that she needed the COVID-19 vaccine to get the organ. Lewis refused to get the vaccine.

Lewis said taking the vaccine would offend her conscience and argued that the requirement violates her rights to life, conscience, liberty and person’s safety in the Charter.

“I should have the choice of what goes into my body, and I cannot be denied life-saving treatment because I chose not to undergo experimental treatment for a condition – COVID-19 – that I do not have and that I may never,” Lewis said in a statement previously submitted to the court.

The case was dismissed by an Alberta court, which said the Charter does not apply to clinical treatment decisions, particularly for physicians setting the terms for organ transplants.

Judge Paul Belzil ruled that the standard of care must be the same for all potential recipients or it could lead to “medical chaos.”

‘Deeply disappointed’

The Alberta Court of Appeals upheld the decision, prompting Lewis’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Ms. Lewis is deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has decided not to hear her case,” Allison Pejovic, Lewis’ attorney, said in a press release from the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms.

“She had hoped justice would prevail in the courts for herself and other unvaccinated transplant candidates across Canada.”

Pejovic said Lewis’s constitutional challenge ends with the dismissal of the Supreme Court of Canada, but she will continue to try to get the life-saving surgery.

Lewis recently filed a separate lawsuit against Alberta Health Services, an Alberta hospital and the transplant doctors.

There is a publication ban on the identity of the doctors, the organ involved and the location of the transplant program.

Lewis is pleading negligence in the decision to remove her from the high priority transplant list, saying it amounts to medical malpractice.

The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said Lewis will ask the court at an upcoming hearing to allow immediate reinstatement on the transplant list pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

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