Organ Donations in Canada fall short for Victims of Car Accidents and Illness

Posted by Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan
February 02, 2019

Although the vast majority of Canadians are in favour of organ transplants and blood donation, our rate of organ donation is dismal - only about 20 percent of Canadians have registered to donate.  Canada’s rate of organ donation is among the lowest third for developed nations, and lower than the rate for the United States.

The shortfall in organ donation is problematic and has life-altering implications for many Canadians who become ill or injured.  Thousands of Canadians are on waiting lists for organs and tissue transplants. Service Ontario reports that, in Ontario, more than 1,500 people are typically waiting for an organ transplant that will save their lives, and someone dies about every 3 days because they failed to receive the needed organ in time.  In 2016, the Canadian Institute for Health Information revealed that 474 liver transplants were performed that year, but 329 Canadians were still waiting for a liver and 78 died before received this critical organ.

In addition to the need for organs, such as a kidney, liver and lung tissue, there is also a constant demand and need for blood and blood products.   In fact, about 52 percent of Canadians report that they, or a member of their family, needed a blood transfusion or blood products at least once in their lives.   And, many donors are required to save just one hospital patient - 50 donors are needed for one person who is seriously injured in a car accident, and 5 donors are needed for persons undergoing heart surgery.

Anyone interested in registering for organ donation can do so at the Service Canada website (https://www.ontario.ca/page/organ-and-tissue-donor-registration?utm_source=so&utm_medium=keyword&utm_campaign=original), and it takes only a couple of minutes to register. You can also register for donation when you renew your driver’s licence or OHIP card, and it’s a good idea to let family members know that you would like to donate.  Currently, many Canadians are resorting to social media to try to find someone who has compassion for their situation and would be willing to donate a needed organ, which wouldn’t be occurring if there were enough organs available for those in need.

One donor has the capability to save as many as 8 lives, and even persons of advanced age may donate.  Donations of an organ and organ tissue have been accepted from persons as old as 90 and 100.  Also, persons with many types of medical conditions can donate.  For example, heart disease is a leading cause of death in Canada; but people who die of a circulatory condition such as heart disease or a heart attack may still have many healthy organs (including lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas) to donate and which can save the lives of other Canadians.   And, because transplant patients are living longer due to advances in surgical techniques, anti-rejection drugs and organ preservations, donation of an organ is even more likely to have a life-changing outcome for another person.

None of us can predict when a child, parent or another loved one might need an organ and/or blood after being hurt in a car crash or while suffering from a serious illness, and we all hope that the needed organs will be available to save their life in such an event.  In 2017, a Winnipeg mother reported that the life of her 11-year-old daughter was saved by a just-in-time liver transplant, in addition to hundreds of blood transfusions. The patient, Piper Coffin, developed a genetic condition that caused her liver and kidneys to fail. She was receiving kidney dialysis and was in a coma when she underwent a life-saving kidney transplant. Piper’s mother, Cynthia Jessop, encourages all Canadians who are able, to register as organ donors or give to foundations, such as the David Foster Foundation.

Disclaimer: Our blog is intended to inform our existing and prospective clients about topics pertinent to their lives. While our goal is to provide accurate and factual information, this in no way should be taken as legal advice or applied to specific cases. It is in your best interest to contact a licenced and practising lawyer for legal representation, as matters of the law are often complicated and cannot be fully assessed without knowing all of the details of a case.