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What are You Waiting for?

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What are You Waiting for?

I must have picked up four or five organ donation forms over the years, intending to register myself so that, in the event of sudden death, I could pass on my healthy and living organs to someone who needed them.

I must have picked up four or five organ donation forms over the years, intending to register myself so that, in the event of sudden death, I could pass on my healthy and living organs to someone who needed them.

Those forms sat incomplete until, during research for this article, I learned that on average 3,700 Canadians await organ transplants for kidneys, hearts, lungs, or livers, and thousands of others require transplanted tissues such as corneas, heart valves, bone grafts, and skin.

“The need for organs and tissues for transplantation has never been greater,” says Kari Cuss, spokesperson for the Trillium Gift of Life Network in Ontario. “Despite public opinion surveys that indicate a high level (80 percent) of support for organ donation, only 50 percent of the population are registered organ donors. That means one Ontarian awaiting a transplant dies every three days.”

Part of the problem in getting organs to patients is that organ donor programs are administered on a provincial level and that donors register in different ways in each province and territory. In British Columbia and Ontario, donors must file a registration form in order to donate; in other provinces, donors apply a sticker or sign the back of their health insurance card to indicate willingness to donate organs after death.

To unify the divergent provincial system, federal standards have been established in the past five years to set strict criteria that must be followed nationwide for the health and safety of organ transfer. The Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation (CCDT) has stepped up the advice it offers to individual hospitals to encourage use of its services and to offer grief counselling and request organ donations from bereaved relatives.

A national consensus among members of the CCDT was reached in December 2005 to increase the potential donor pool by accepting organ donations after cardiac death, not simply after neurological (brain) death. A practice already in place in the US, England, Italy, Australia, Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium, the protocol has increased donations upwards of 20 percent.

Still, those donor registration forms are only good when they’re filled out. As Cuss explains further, one donor can save the lives of seven people and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation.

What are you waiting for? Take action now to register as an organ donor. Then talk with your family so they are aware of your wishes and are willing to follow through on them after death. Naturally healthy individuals like alive readers would make the best organ donors.

Organ Donor Status by Province

BC
Online registry of organ donors

Quebec
Donor sticker applied to health insurance card

Ontario
Downloadable donor gift of life card

Alberta
Sign the back of Alberta Health Care card

Saskatchewan
Indicate desire to be an organ and tissue donor by placing an orange “organ and tissue donor” sticker on Saskatchewan health services card

How to Register

To register for the organ donation program in your province, use the interactive map on the Canadian Contacts page of the Canadian Association of Transplantation website at transplant.ca.

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