Transplant Candidate to Fight Alberta Health Services’ Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate in Court

ALBERTA: The Justice Centre announces that legal counsel for Sheila Annette Lewis will appear in the Alberta Court of Appeal at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 20, 2022. Counsel for Ms. Lewis will challenge the requirements which have prohibited her from receiving a life-saving transplant unless she first receives the Covid-19 vaccines.

Ms. Lewis has a terminal condition and needs an organ transplant to survive. In November 2021, she filed a lawsuit in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench asking the court to uphold her Charter-protected right to conscience, bodily autonomy, freedom to choose without coercion, and freedom from discrimination.

Counsel for Ms. Lewis are asking the Court of Appeal to overturn the July 2022 decision of Justice R. P. Belzil of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. In this decision, Justice Belzil ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to either the Requirements of Alberta Health Services (AHS) or to the requirements of the organ transplant team at the Alberta hospital which has denied Ms. Lewis’ request for a transplant. In other words, this ruling upheld the right of AHS and Lewis’ transplant program team to require that all candidates be vaccinated for Covid-19 prior to their transplant. (The transplant program team is comprised of a group of doctors who work within an organ transplant program, which is funded by AHS.) These requirements were implemented only after Ms. Lewis had become an organ transplant candidate.

Ms. Lewis filed her Notice of Appeal in the Alberta Court of Appeal on August 12, 2022.

This case is under a publication ban. Due to a Court Order, the Justice Centre may not reveal the names of the doctors, the hospital, the city where the transplant program is located, or the name of the organ that Ms. Lewis needs for life-saving surgery.

Ms. Lewis will ask the Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s decision. Further, Ms. Lewis will ask the Court to undertake an analysis of her claims under the Charter and the Alberta Bill of Rights and to find that both the Charter and the Alberta Bill of Rights apply to the Requirement, because that Requirement was implemented by government and government actors.

In support of her Charter arguments, Ms. Lewis filed expert reports from an award-winning immunologist, and a viral immunologist, who is also a vaccinologist. These reports showed that the Covid-19 vaccines are still in clinical trials to assess their safety and efficacy, that they are not effective, and that they have a concerning safety profile. She also filed an expert report from a surgeon with a Master’s degree in Health Care Ethics. This surgeon opined that the benefit of vaccination for Ms. Lewis was so small that it was unethical to require her to get the Covid-19 vaccine prior to her transplant. The existing policies make no allowance for natural immunity. Ms. Lewis notes that AHS will do transplants for patients who are not vaccinated for Covid-19, provided they have a medical exemption.

“A government transplant program must respect its transplant candidates’ Charter rights,” states Ms. Allison Pejovic, legal counsel for Ms. Lewis. “Using coercion and enforcing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate upon terminally ill transplant candidates without testing them for natural immunity, and before the clinical trials for safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines are completed, is unethical and an unjustifiable violation of the Charter,” she concludes.

The appeal will be heard at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 20, 2022, by video conference. The Justice Centre would like to remind those watching the hearing that (1) the Publication Ban referenced above applies to anyone watching the hearing, (2) the Court prohibits recording the hearing, and (3) observers need to keep their microphones and cameras turned off.