Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)

Editorial: Opt-out organ donation the way to go

In most places in Canada, including British Columbia, you have to sign up to be an organ donor.

In most places in Canada, including British Columbia, you have to sign up to be an organ donor. We think it should be the other way around.

If you have not signed up and something happens to you, doctors cannot use parts of your body to save the lives of others. Think heart, kidney, liver, and cornea transplants, just to name a few.

On Jan. 18, Nova Scotia became the first place in Canada, and indeed in North America, to adopt presumed consent for organ donation. This means that unless you opt out, you are automatically an organ donor. We think British Columbia should follow Nova Scotia’s lead.

Transplants save people’s lives. But there just aren’t enough donors to go around, despite people dying every day from any number of causes. It’s even tougher because donors must often match recipients in numerous ways for transplants to even be viable. Transplant lists can be long and ultimately heartbreaking. Even those who do receive a transplant can wait for years in less than optimum health.

According to figures from Canadian Blood Services, 250 Canadians died while waiting for a transplant in 2019, and 4,419 patients were waiting for transplants at the end of 2019. For every patient who gets a transplant, there are two on the waiting list.

We think that if you ask most people they would tell you that if they were to die, they would be willing to have some part of them used to save somebody else’s life. But only a fraction of those people would also tell you they are currently organ donors. For most people it’s likely not that they don’t want to be donors, it’s just that getting on the donor list is not something they’ve gotten around to doing yet.

Some people, for religious or other reasons, do not want to become organ donors, and we respect that right. That is why it is important that there is an opt-out opportunity, as Nova Scotia has done. But we think it’s far more likely that those who feel strongly against becoming organ donors will declare themselves, than that the larger number of people who either don’t mind or don’t care will take the time to opt in — the system currently in use. In Nova Scotia, a month before the new rules came into effect, only 1,300 people, less than one per cent of the population, had opted out.

This is something that can save lives and leaves people’s rights over what happens to their bodies intact. It just makes sense.

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