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This article was published 14/3/2017 (1600 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Making it mandatory for doctors and nurses to contact the province's Gift of Life program before withdrawing life support from patients has led to a more than 100 per cent increase in the number of potential organ donors in just two years.
Dr. Faisal Siddiqui, program director of critical care medicine at the University of Manitoba's faculty of medicine, said Transplant Manitoba was alerted to about 35 per cent of potential donors' conditions in 2014, but that number jumped to 74 per cent in 2016 after the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority introduced a mandatory referral policy.
Siddiqui said the mandatory policy ensures all of the city's intensive-care units and emergency-room programs contact the transplant program if the patient meets organ donation criteria and before life support is withdrawn.
"It gives Transplant Manitoba the chance to have that conversation with families," he said Tuesday.
"We can tell them you can honour their wishes... it's not about whether you want to transplant. It is about honouring the wishes of the human being whether they wanted transplant or not.
"We want to get the phone call so we can find out their wishes."
Another recent change was when the province implemented a new policy in 2015, allowing for organ donation following cardio-circulatory death. Before the change, organs used for transplants were recovered exclusively from patients declared brain dead, which represents only about 1.5 per cent of deaths in hospital.
Sharon Blady, then-provincial health minister, said at the time officials hoped the change would increase donation rates by 20 to 25 per cent.
"When there is no hope of recovery for loved ones, more Manitoba families will be able to consider choosing organ donation and honour the wishes of a family member," she said then.
Since the changes there have more organ donations for Manitobans.
Last year, 57 patients received new kidneys, nearly double the number in 2015.
Transplant Manitoba medical director Dr. Adrian Robertson said the target is to get medical staff referring 90 per cent of potential donors.
"We are working hard with our hospital partners to achieve this goal," Robertson said in a statement.
"Our team values the relationships that physicians and nurses have developed with families during this really difficult time. We all work in partnership so families have the opportunity to consider donation and through effective co-ordination and communication, we give family members the information they need to make informed decisions about organ donations."
About 19,000 Manitobans have given consent to donate organs and tissue, Siddiqui said.
"This is a testament to the strong giving nature of Manitobans."
To become a donor, sign up at www.signupforlife.ca.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.