The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Federal Minister of Health
House of Commons
Dear Ms. Patty Hajdy,
RE: Organ Donation: a National Disgrace
Hundreds of Canadians are dying unnecessarily because of Canada’s tragic failure in organ donation. This is directly related to the lack of a national legislation by Parliament – a national organ transplant act (NOTA). Parliament has never passed such legislation. Other countries with higher donation rates all have NOTA-like legislation, empowering a national agency capable of delivering resources to the places where organ donation occurs.
Currently Canada’s deceased organ donation is well below that of the USA and many other developed countries, and live donation also lags behind that in the USA. Large amounts of money given to Canadian Blood Services to improve organ donation have had little effect.
In 2016 Mr. Ziad Aboultaif, himself an organ donor, introduced Bill C-223, a private members’ bill, to begin the first discussion of organ donation in Canada’s parliament. For unknown reasons, the government killed the bill and has done nothing to replace it. This is not acceptable.
Some key points are as follows:
- The United States is 40-50% ahead of Canada in deceased organ donation per capita.
- Thousands of Canadians are on a transplant waiting list and many die each year.
- The leading countries in organ transplantation (e.g. Spain) have shown that resources must be allocated to the intensive care units and emergency departments at the point where donors can be identified by professionals, not simply to bureaucrats and government agencies.
- Canada needs a NOTA, modelled on organizations in benchmark countries but tailored to Canadian challenges (e.g. geography). Our federal government must enact a Canadian NOTA.
Many Canadian lives are at stake, and this cannot be treated as simply a political issue. We urge you, indeed we beg you, to take the issue of deceased organ donation seriously and take action by the federal government, with a NOTA, mandating an accountable federal agency that can put new resources into hospitals, and a new commitment to this issue that is critical to the lives of thousands of Canadians.
Philip F. Halloran, MD, PhD, O.C., FRSC
Professor of Medicine, University of Alberta
Editor-in-chief Emeritus, American Journal of Transplantation.