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Ontario agency hopes to speed project that doesn’t require sobriety for liver transplant

Delilah Saunders is seen at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Membertou, N.S., Oct. 30, 2017.
Delilah Saunders is seen at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Membertou, N.S., Oct. 30, 2017. Andrew Vaughan / File / The Canadian Press

TORONTO – The head of Ontario’s organ donor agency says she’s working to speed up a pilot project that would waive six-month sobriety requirements for people in need of liver transplants.

Ronnie Gavsie, president and chief executive of Trillium Gift of Life Network, said in an interview that the agency is “doing everything it can” to accelerate the hiring of staff and resources.

READ MORE: Inuk woman refused liver transplant due to alcohol use showing signs of recovery

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The agency has faced criticism since a young Inuk woman’s family said she was initially told she wouldn’t be eligible for a liver transplant because she resumed drinking within the required six-month abstinence period.

The family of Delilah Saunders, 26, have argued the requirement for people with alcohol-related liver disease should be waived prior to the original planned launch of the three-year pilot program this coming August.

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READ MORE: Inuk advocate for women rejected for liver transplant due to alcoholism: friends

The pilot program is projected to cost about $1 million a year and Gavsie says it requires the hiring of additional staff, though details have yet to be released.

Saunders, who is a well-known Indigenous activist, said Monday in a social media posting that she may not need a liver transplant and she is planning to travel to Labrador to finish her recovery after being treated for several days in Toronto’s University Health Network.

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