David Dennis. (UBCIC video screenshot)

David Dennis. (UBCIC video screenshot)

Indigenous man behind complaint of BC Transplant’s alcohol abstinence policy has died

David Dennis, who is Nuu-chah-nulth, argued that six-month sobriety policy is a ‘lethal form of racism’

An ailing B.C. man who last year filed a Human Rights complaint over BC Transplant’s six-month alcohol abstinence policy has died.

But the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has applied as intervenor to continue challenging the lawfulness of the policy, despite BC Transplant statements that it no longer exists.

David Dennis, who had end-stage liver disease, launched the complaint in August 2019 after being excluded from the wait list. At the time, he had been sober since June but BC Transplant’s policy dictated he would not be placed on the transplant list unless he remained abstinent until December.

Dennis, a member of western Vancouver Island’s Huu-ay-aht First Nation, died on May 29.

In a statement Tuesday (July 7), UBCIC Grand Chief Steward Phillip accused the health authorities listed in the complaint, including the Provincial Health Services Authority, of trying to have the complaint thrown out.

“If our application is denied, the Fraser Health Authority and B.C. Government will celebrate Dave’s death as a postponement of their day of reckoning,” he said.

“We cannot allow for his loss to enable further discrimination against Indigenous people by delaying justice, and our hearts weigh heavy with the knowledge that if accountability had come sooner, we might not have lost him at all.”

The complaint – filed jointly by the UBCIC and the Frank Paul Society – argues that the abstinence policy discriminates against Indigenous people, who have disproportionately higher rates of alcohol use disorder largely due to harmful colonial policies but especially through the inter-generational traumas of the Indian residential schools.

“I’m not just at the bottom of the waiting list for a liver transplant; I’ve been kicked off the list entirely,” Dennis said at the time.

“I want to continue to live and be here for my children and family. But if I don’t make it, I want the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Frank Paul Society to carry on and get rid of this lethal form of racism.”

BC Transplant claims ‘misunderstanding’

Shortly after Dennis brought forward his complaint, BC Transplant provincial operations director Ed Ferre said that the incident was a misunderstanding and that alcohol abstinence was removed as a requirement to be placed on the waiting list in May 2019, following the emergence of new medical research and evidence.

“We have been in direct contact with the patient and can confirm that the process for transplant assessment is underway” Ferre sad in a statement. “Unfortunately in this situation, we believe there was a misunderstanding of the guidelines and processes around liver transplantation and we apologize for any upset caused.”

Ferre said that since the policy change, no patients had been excluded from the list for alcohol use.

“On occasion, we still encourage alcohol abstinence for patients and often find that this improves the liver condition and can sometimes remove the need for transplant altogether.”

Black Press Media has reached out to BC Transplant and the Provincial Health Services Authority for comment on the latest complaint status update.

Anti-Indigenous racism in B.C.’s health care system made headlines last month, after concerning allegations were brought forward that emergency room staff and doctors in provincial hospitals were playing a blood-alcohol guessing game when patients were brought in.

Health Minister Adrian Dix ordered an investigation into the claims and condemned such racist acts.

ALSO READ: B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racist blood-alcohol guessing game in ER


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC HealthIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Northern Health announced on Dec. 1 holiday changes to the medical travel bus schedule for December and January 2021. (Photo: supplied)
Holiday schedule changes for Northern Health Connections bus

N.H. announces transportation time changes from Prince Rupert to Prince George

A Water Quality Advisory is still in affect on Dec. 1 in Prince Rupert after being in place for a month. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory still in place for Prince Rupert

High turbidity is creating risky drinking water in Prince Rupert

Pea sized hail rained from the skies in Prince Rupert on Nov. 30 leaving roads covered in a sheet of ice. (Photo; K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Large hail caused icy conditions in Prince Rupert

High wind warnings in effect for North Coast and Haida Gwaii

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read