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

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

One Peak Creative has made a catapult which allows children to receive candy in a socially distanced fashion. (Onepeakcreative - Instagram)
Kelowna production company creates Halloween catapult

One Peak Creative promoted the product by making a reality TV style video

Image: Dave Ogilvie.
Man with leg injury rescued from West Kelowna trail

The incident happened in the Glenrosa area

Man experiencing homelessness lying on the bench. (File photo)
CMHA opens fourth supportive housing in Kelowna

Ellis Place will open on the first week of November

An artist’s rendering of the proposed development that would replace the Hiawatha RV Park in Kelowna. (Contributed)
Eviction notice leaves Kelowna trailer park resident fearing homelessness

44 mobile home units at Hiawatha RV Park were served an eviction notice yesterday, making room for new development

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Bear sightings have been reported in a residential area in Summerland in late October. The Conservation Officer Service is urging people to take measures so bears are not drawn to the area (Black Press file photo)
Bear sightings reported from Summerland neighbourhood

Conservation Officer Service urges people not to leave garbage outside

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as fake Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Melissa Leveque claims that on June 2, 2020 she spilled hot tea on her lap due to negligence on the part of staff at Penticton’s Riverside Starbucks drive-thru. (Google maps photo)
Woman sues Starbucks over hot tea spill at Penticton drive-thru

Melissa Leveque claims she suffered second degree burns, seeking $35,000

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A man was caught on surveillance taking a large outdoor heater from the patio at Intermezzo early morning Wednesday, Oct. 28. (Contributed)
WATCH: Heater theft leaves Okanagan business cold

Patio heater stolen from Intermezzo, found trashed

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP and a local Vernon man are asking the public to keep their eyes peeled for a unique piece of art stolen from Chris Saunders’ Okanagan Landing home Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Chris Saunders - Contributed)
Unique work of art stolen from Vernon man’s courtyard

‘Theft and trespass violations are getting out of control in Okanagan Landing’

Most Read