As It Happens

Widow fights liver transplant policy, husband denied because he was an alcoholic

Mark Selkirk died while he was waiting for a liver transplant in 2010. He wasn't waiting because the doctors didn't have a liver to give him, or because there was any doubt about the severity of his liver disease. He was an alcoholic and was told, according to policy, that he needed to be sober for six months before being...

Mark Selkirk died while he was waiting for a liver transplant in 2010. He wasn't waiting because the doctors didn't have a liver to give him, or because there was any doubt about the severity of his liver disease. He was an alcoholic and was told, according to policy, that he needed to be sober for six months before being eligible for a transplant. His wife is launching a constitutional challenge to that policy.

"I believe that if doctors have a patient whose life they can save and they have a donor who's willing to give, that they have an obligation [to save their life]," Mark's wife Debra Selkirk tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Debra was a good candidate and willing to be a donor to save her husband's life.

She believes that the abstinence policy enforced for liver transplants at hospitals across North America contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Selkirk theorizes that if lifestyle choices were taken into account for all procedures, it would be seen by many as inhumane.

"Perhaps we should have a rating system for every disease and everything that comes into our hospital," she argues.

"If someone comes into the hospital bleeding to death and you're a gang member... I say to him, okay, I'm going to look at my list, 'Gang related.' We make them wait three hours [according to our lifestyle policy]. If you bleed to death in the meantime, oh well, you're a bad person.

"That's not what universal health care is, universal health care is save every life you can."

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