Organ Donors

Alexa Grittani - 3B Mechanical
Posted on: February 19, 2017

There is a disconnect in Ontario and Canada between the laws governing organ donation and the actual practice. Even if the deceased person has consented to donating their organs, the family can step in and veto this decision.

In Ontario, when someone dies suddenly, making their organs viable for donation, there is a lot that physicians must go through before they can actually harvest the organs. They have to check that they have consented to donating their organs, and only about 30 per cent of the eligible population has formally registered as organ donors, even though a majority of Canadians agree with organ donation.

They must also test that the organs are healthy and that there are matches for transplanting, but then before harvesting the organs starts, the family is notified, and “asked to reaffirm that choice” according to Ontario’s organ donor website ( From a legal perspective, there is nothing a family should be able to do to veto the legally binding consent to donate organs that an individual has signed prior to their death.

But, the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act gives families the right to express if they believe that their loved one may have changed their mind on the topic of organ donation. While a majority of families will honor the deceased wishes, according to CBC 20 per cent of families of registered donors blocked organ donation. According to national post, no physician has ever denied the wishes of the family when they have chosen to stop organ donation.

What is the solution to this disconnect? It may be as simple as talking about it. It is important to inform family and loved ones of your decision on organ donation, so that it cannot come as a shock to them later. Others suggest that Canada should be switching to an opt-out system like France has recently adopted.

The new law in France assumes that everyone consents to organ donation unless they enter their names on the National Rejection Register.

One province in Canada has already been trying to move to presumed consent. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tried to make the province the first to change the laws surrounding organ donation. While the committee did not support it last November, he says that the conversation is ongoing.

At the same time there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths from drug overdose in Canada, which is actually making more organs available for transplant. Since the beginning of 2017 there has already been over 50 organs donated from 20 donors that have been transplanted, according to BC Transplant. This is because there has been a deadly spike in fentanyl abuse in Canada.

Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic opioid pain medication that has rapid onset, but only a short duration. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, meaning that the size of about four grains of salt of Fentanyl is enough to kill the average adult. In British Columbia, the head of the province’s renal transplant program, Dr. David Landsberg, reports that 25 per cent of the deceased donors so far in 2017 are the result of overdoses.

This raises a risk for diseases in the organs due to the organs coming from someone who participates in “high-risk” behavior. The organs undergo careful testing to ensure they are safe for transplant, and the recipients are advised that the organs come from a “high-risk” individual. It makes no difference to the transplant receiver, as to them it is often life or death.

According to the Canadian Blood Services, there are approximately 4600 canadians on the waiting list for organ transplant.

Registering online at only takes minutes, and telling next-of-kin will make sure that your wishes can be understood.

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