Here is something to think about: Would you donate a part of yourself to help someone else live? That is the central question of organ donation. Choosing to offer your organs to be used for transplant upon your passing is an important question to consider, and worthy of a decision.
Most people have thought about organ donation and some have acted to volunteer to be donors. In British Columbia we have an opt-in system whereby a person, or their families, must choose to become a donor when the time comes.
This is in contrast to an ‘opt-out’ system, also called ‘presumed consent’ in which every person at time of death is considered for organ donation unless they have specifically stated they are against doing so. At first blush, this sounds like a good idea for increasing donation rates, but there are reasons why it is not used in British Columbia.
It turns out that there is little solid evidence to support that presumed consent increases the rate of donations. In many jurisdictions, the policy is not enforced so the family of the deceased still has to make the decision.
Instead, BC has increased donation rates by building awareness, educating families and medical staff.
Whatever the model, the wait list for an organ transplant far outweighs the number of organs available for transplant. At this writing, there are 612 people in BC awaiting a transplant, and about 4,500 across Canada.
The first organ transplant performed in BC (a kidney) occurred in 1968 at Vancouver General Hospital. Since then, almost 7,000 transplants have been performed here. Today, all transplant surgeries in BC take place at one of the three Transplant Centres: BC Children’s Hospital, St Paul’s Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital.
Organ donation in BC is managed by BC Transplant
which provides oversight for all aspects of organ donation and transplantation across BC. The most commonly transplanted organs are kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs and small intestine. Transplants can be whole organs, or segments (nodes) as in the liver or lung.
Organ donation need not be from a deceased person. Living donors may donate a kidney, a lobe of a lung, a lobe of the liver (which will grow back to normal size over time in both the donor’s and recipient’s bodies), a section of intestine or a part of your pancreas. Other donations include bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and peripheral blood stem cells.
Living donors can donate to a specific individual such as a family member, friend or to a person that you know needs an organ. Or they can donate to someone in need by donating to the provincial organ donor organization.
There are few acts more selfless than providing the means of life to another person. Think about it, make a decision and visit the BC Transplant
website to register.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.