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This article was published 13/11/2017 (1404 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Early in November, a private member’s bill proposing presumed consent for organ donations was defeated in the provincial legislature.
While the door has been closed for the time being on adopting the presumed consent model in Manitoba, an opportunity for discussion has opened up. This is fortunate, because organ donation is not a topic likely to come up at the dinner table, yet communication is a critical part of the process.
The concept of presumed consent is that everybody is assumed to be a potential organ donor unless they explicitly opt out.
It is seen as a way to address a critical shortage in organ donations that often results in long and potentially deadly delays in transplants. Presumed consent recognizes that many people — most people, perhaps — do not object to giving up a liver or lung once they no longer need it, but nor are they particularly motivated to register themselves as donors. What happens to one’s body after death is something people prefer not to think about, so "register as organ donor" rarely makes it onto a To Do list.
Presumed consent is fairly common, with many countries and jurisdictions having adopted the model, and more exploring it as a solution including Switzerland, the United Kingdom and (closer to home) Saskatchewan. All have the same goal — to boost low organ donation rates and save lives.
Manitoba’s current system takes the opposite approach. People are not considered donors unless they formally register to be so. The two approaches appear to be polar opposite on paper but, in practice they are not that different, because in both cases the final decision rests with the family of the deceased.
This is one of the primary criticisms of presumed consent. Detractors point out that organ donation rates in countries with presumed consent are not necessarily higher than in those with an opt-in model.
Under presumed consent, for example, if a family is unsure of a loved one’s wishes they may block organ donation even if an had not opted out. Similarly, a family may agree to allow an organ donation in an opt-in jurisdiction such as Manitoba even if the donor never actually registered.
The Manitoba government has left the door open to revisiting the question at some point in the future but, whether this happens or not, the responsibility lies with people to make their intentions known.
If you want to opt in, register at signupforlife.ca. But also be sure to let someone around you know.
Derick Young is a community correspondent for Southdale.
Southdale community correspondent
Derick Young was a community correspondent for Southdale.