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LETTER: Time for B.C. to follow Nova Scotia on organ donation

2010 Langley transplant recipient pleading for changes to provincial rules to help save more lives
Todd Hauptman and Tanya Tait, both Langley residents at the time of the transplant in 2010, are still in regular contact after she donated a kidney to Todd. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Dear Editor,

British Columbia needs to follow Nova Scotia’s leadership on adopting an opt-out organ donation system.

Our province has 621 people waiting for a life-saving solid organ transplant.

British Columbia has a world-class solid organ and tissue transplant program, and we should be proud that 5,677 people in this province live with a successful transplant.

B.C. has been a leader in organ donation and transplantation, but we need to continue to build upon this leadership.

Dr. Beatriz Dominguez-Gil, director general of Spain’s National Transplant Organization, said in a November 2019 interview: “In reality, we believe that the opt-out system has made a difference. It has created a good framework of understanding, specifying that in a country like ours, it would be a normal thing to donate.”

This issue matters to me so much because, on March 31, 2010, I received a life-saving kidney donation from my dear friend, Tanya [Tait].

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I am healthy and strong today because of an organ transplant.

And I want all those in need to receive theirs.

An opt-out organ system presumes that every resident is an organ donor unless they remove themselves from a national registry.

France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are just a few countries that have adopted an opt-out system. This system still leaves the decision in an individual’s hands so that their wishes are respected.

A change to an opt-out system for organ donation is not a silver bullet, but rather a catalyst for the necessary change.

BC Transplant and the government of British Columbia certainly have a lot to be proud of. But we need to do better.

There are 621 reasons to undertake a government review on this model immediately.

The B.C. government should undertake a significant policy review that includes the examination of the financial savings in terms of direct and indirect financials. Additionally, such a review should engage with patient groups.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, “Not only does a transplant have better health outcomes and improved quality of life, but it is also a less costly option for the health-care system than dialysis.

“The total annual cost of dialysis ranges from $56,000 to $107,000 per patient. The cost of a transplant is $66,000 in the first year, then $23,000 in subsequent years. Therefore, the health-care system saves up to $84,000 annually per patient transplanted.”

Yet, in a letter in December from the BC Ministry of Health, they wrote to me that “In B.C., presumed consent legislation is not being pursued at this time. There is considerable evidence that the main reason for any variation in donor rates between jurisdictions is due to varying practices in the identification of potential donors rather than different legislation governing organ donation and presumed consent.”

Canada is behind many other countries on its donor rate. Our national rate is currently 20.9 per million people.

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Meanwhile, Spain is 43.4, the United States is 31, and the United Kingdom comes in at 21.4.

In our province, we have a chance to be leaders in increasing the number of British Columbians receiving their life-saving organ transplants.

Former BC NDP Vancouver-False Creek candidate Morgane Oger said recently, “There is a long way to go to close the gap between the number of people remembering to sign up to donate organs and those waiting for a transplant. Opt-out organ donation makes sense. It makes it easy for everyone to save someone’s life…”

The only question now is why not adopt an opt-out organ donation system in B.C.?

Todd Hauptman, Vancouver (of Langley during transplant)


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