Our organ donor system sorely needs reform
It’s a deadly example of needless waste. Hundreds of Canadians die each year waiting for a donated organ, even as potentially life-saving organs from two-thirds of eligible donors go unused. Whether or not a viable organ is successfully collected very much depends on the province where a deceased lived, their age, and the hospital where they died. It’s a chaotic system that needs reform in order to save lives.
That’s the sobering conclusion of a new study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and it’s vital that governments, bureaucrats, hospital administrators, doctors and families all pay attention.
Researchers found that more than 1,500 potential donors younger than 70 died in Canadian hospitals in 2012. But only 520 became actual donors, with at least one organ successfully transplanted — and that’s using a conservative estimate of eligibility.
Quebec had the highest rate of deceased organ donor conversion, successfully obtaining tissue in 21 per cent of eligible deaths. The Prairie provinces had the lowest, with Manitoba and Saskatchewan each registering just 10 per cent.
A better job has to be done in motivating physicians in smaller hospitals to do the difficult and emotionally draining work of obtaining organs for patients awaiting a transplant.
Doctors also have a tendency to identify and procure organs mainly from younger donors when, in fact, “older donors are becoming increasingly accepted as a source of solid organs, both here at home and internationally,” researchers wrote.
There’s much at stake: 230 Canadians with end-stage organ failure died while on a transplant waiting list in 2012 alone. Most might have been saved had so many organs not gone to waste. According to the institute, more than 4,600 people continue to wait for a kidney, liver or other organ. We owe them prompt reform.