Time to change the system for liver donations

There really is no excuse good enough to explain why people in western Canada don’t have the same options for a stranger-donor liver that people farther east in our country do have.

We were very surprised to hear that not only won’t Alberta Health Services (one hospital in Edmonton is the only place in the west that does the transplants) do the testing on strangers who are willing to step up to the plate to donate a piece of their liver so that someone else can live, there’s not even a national registry of potential

donors as there is when it comes to kidney or bone marrow donations.

This has left Lake Cowichan’s Naomi Carlow clinging to life, getting sicker and sicker as her parents hope she will grow enough to accept a liver donation from a family friend, then be strong enough to make it through the surgery.

It is incredibly unfair that you have to hope and pray that a family member or friend is going to be a viable match should a loved one need a liver transplant.

Many people have found great success conducting media campaigns canvassing for willing living organ donors when the options of family and friends have failed.

It’s something that social media has been great for.

One of the reasons stated for why western Canadian health care authorities won’t do stranger donations for livers is that they don’t want to facilitate a black market in organ donation.

It’s an admirable sentiment, but it doesn’t really hold water when we know that systems for other donor organs are already in place to both allow

strangers to generously donate, and to guard against people selling organs, perhaps from the unwilling.

The balance is possible. We think if a national donor list was available many people would volunteer to be on it.

Especially when they learn that the donor’s liver will regenerate itself, so it doesn’t even leave as permanent a scar, so to speak, as donating a kidney.

There are risks, of course. But a humbling number of people are willing to reach out that helping hand.

We don’t want to see, read about, or report on more families having to navigate the nightmare maze of the donation system as it is now.

Patients and their families shouldn’t have to hope that someone else will die so a cadaveric donor organ becomes available. Especially since such an organ in Naomi’s case would likely come from another child.

The bottom line is, not enough is being done for those who need liver transplants in western Canada. Certainly not everything that can be done. It’s time to change that.