A 25-year-old woman whose sister was murdered in Nova Scotia three years ago is in hospital with acute liver failure, and her family says strict rules around substance abuse is preventing her from receiving a transplant she desperately needs.
Delilah Saunders became a vocal advocate for Indigenous women after her sister Loretta Saunders was killed in 2014 by a couple she sublet her Halifax apartment.
Delilah, who is Inuit, later spoke at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Membertou, N.S.
Delilah has also struggled with alcohol, and she is currently in hospital in Ottawa. Doctors told the family that Delilah’s liver failure was triggered by taking acetaminophen.
Family and friends quickly stepped forward in hopes of being donors. However, because Delilah is not on a formal waiting list, the volunteer donors cannot be considered.
The family is now petitioning an Ontario court to have Delilah’s name place on a waiting list. Her aunt, Barbara Coffey, is flying to Ottawa in hopes of saving her niece’s life.
"We are asking that the province of Ontario waive its six-month clean policy and immediately accept Delilah as a patient in their transplant program. Delilah is 26 years old, and we already lost Loretta to something that we could not control,” Coffey told CTV Atlantic as she fought back tears.
“The fact that Delilah is ineligible for a transplant is unjust and discriminatory. The policy does not take into account the multiple traumas she has suffered in her life.”
Delilah’s cousin, Jessica Coffey, who is also travelling to Ottawa, says the news is especially upsetting after Delilah had been sober for three months and was on the path to recovery.
“She deserves this chance, because it's really unfair,” she said.
Other loved ones have already arrived in Ottawa to support Delilah in hospital. Kelly Morrissey, a friend of Delilah, says she sees the policy as a way to “punish people for their addictions issues.”
“Delilah deserves this because of all that she had given, but I also feel that Delilah deserves this because there should not be stigma against anybody in Canada and in Ontario to receive the medical care that they so deserve,” Morrissey said.
The family said they hope to bring their case before an Ontario court sometime this week.
Loretta Saunders’ killers, Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette, pleaded guilty to the murder in 2015. Leggette was given a mandatory life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years, and Henneberry was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 10 years.
With a report from CTV Atlantic