The widow of a deceased man says an allegedly repealed controversial organ transplant policy in British Columbia played a role her in late husband’s death two weeks ago.
Gagan Grewal says her husband Gaurav Chopra died of liver disease on Aug. 3, and that his only chance for survival had been a liver transplant.
Grewal reached out to APTN News after seeing the network’s story about David Dennis last week.
Dennis made headlines after filing a human rights complaint against provincial health authorities after allegedly being denied a spot on the waiting list due to a policy that requires potential transplant recipients to be abstinent from drugs and alcohol for six months.
After news of Dennis’ case went public, the Provincial Health Services Authority and B.C. Transplant said the former abstinence policy had been abandoned in May.
When Gaurav was told he had end-stage liver disease in June, he had been alcohol-free since March — three months, says Grewal.
“I should have fought more for him. I just trusted the doctors to do the right thing. I did trust the system a lot. I didn’t think they’ll just let him die,” she said.
Grewal said Gaurav had an appointment with a liver specialist on June 7.
“That is when the doctor said his liver is completely gone, and then there is the six-month period that he will need to wait for.”
The couple didn’t question the abstinence policy — but that changed when Gaurav’s health took a turn for the worse in mid-June.
“That’s when he got worse and that is when we questioned them, and they were still insisting ‘no’,” Grewal recalls.
“Even the nurses, they were like, they are very strict about this policy and they won’t budge.”
By late July Gaurav’s condition had worsened, at which time Grewal says they were told there was nothing doctors could do.
“It was point of no return after that.”
Gaurav, 42, died in the Vancouver General Hospital — at the six-month mark of his sobriety.
Grewal said she was shocked to learn via APTN that B.C. Transplant had dropped the policy in May of this year.
Last week the organization, which coordinates organ transplantation in B.C., told APTN David Dennis’s situation was a “misunderstanding”. It apologized to Dennis.
Dr. Eric Yoshida, a transplant hepatologist and member of the liver transplant team at Vancouver General Hospital, also told APTN the policy had changed.
“It was discussed within our team since last summer,” Yoshida explained.
“Our arguments were presented and there was much debate and it’s basically been abolished,” he said. “We had dedicated meetings to this and we have our rounds every week and then it just kind of gradually became adopted as a functional policy. The general agreement with all the people on the team was probably the end of May.”
But Grewal says there was no misunderstanding with her husband’s case.
“The policy was still there. They never ever told us it doesn’t exist,” she said. “There was not even ever a hint that this policy does not exist.”
B.C, Transplant still features the policy on its website.
“All patients being considered for a liver transplant at the Solid Organ Transplant (SOC) clinic must be abstinent from drugs and alcohol for a minimum of six months.”
Dr. Yoshida and B.C.’s Provincial Health Services Authority both said they cannot legally comment on Gaurav’s case due to doctor-patient confidentiality.